ST. PETERSBURG — The Ferg's Sports Bar & Grill empire on Central Avenue has grown by a parking lot. But it's not just for cars.
On Oct. 1, for example, it'll host the pep rally for the Susan G. Komen Florida Suncoast Race for the Cure. Think big stage, barricades and $10 tickets.
Mark Ferguson is stepping into the venue business.
He used to rent the space between his sports bar and the pink four-story Gas Plant Antique Arcade. The parking lot belonged to the Lew family, which had owned the antique mall, once the family's furniture store, for decades.
After patriarch Ross Lew died in 2006, the family decided to sell. Ferguson found a buyer for the mall, Canadian real estate investor Hunter Milborne, who paid $650,000. For $200,000, Ferguson kept the parking lot at 13th Street. The deal closed in early August.
Now that the parking lot is his, Ferguson's lining up events. Here's his pitch: Promoters can use the space for free. He'll even throw in 10 percent of alcohol sales. Concerts? Craft shows? Sure. He just wants people near his restaurant.
"Whatever works," he said.
Ferguson, 53, bet rather famously on Major League Baseball coming to Tropicana Field, just across First Avenue S from his restaurant at 1320 Central. He started to create Ferg's out of an old gas station before the Trop had the Devil Rays.
But now that Rays owner Stuart Sternberg says the team won't stay there through 2027, Ferguson has had some plotting to do.
He would open a Ferg's near any new ballpark, he said in June. But classic Ferg's would "hopefully become a destination even without baseball."
His sprawling property already has 64 TV screens. Football plays every Saturday and Sunday.
"We do a lot of parties, a lot of parties," he said.
And now they can be big, outdoor parties, no hassling with an outside landlord. The nearest neighbors are the antique mall, a law firm, the St. Petersburg police station, and new housing under construction on the west side.
"We just want more people in the area," Ferguson said. "We're looking for a lot of great events."
Becky Bowers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/bbowerstimes.