Ferg's Sports Bar and Tropicana Field have become a ritual for many Tampa Bay Rays fans — a few beers, a Dugout Dog and a short walk to the field for the game.
Now Jay Mize, owner of the Irish 31 Pub House & Eatery, hopes to associate a similar rite with the Tampa Bay Times Forum, home to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Mize and Mark Ferguson, owner of Ferg's, worked out an agreement to take the name across the bay to Tampa. They hope to revitalize the Channel District surrounding the Times Forum, which is a moonscape of parking lots.
"There's nothing around," Ferguson said, "so for people to meet before and after the game, it's the perfect spot."
The new Ferg's will settle at 490 Channelside Drive, the former site of the Luxury Box.
The sports bar will incorporate the original neon-sign and hanging-memorabilia eccentricity of the original Ferg's, but Mize wants to "modernize it a bit," he said. "The best of both worlds."
What will make this location especially attractive is the conversion of a nearly 5,000-square-foot parking lot to a sprawling porch with a stage for live music.
Mize licensed the name, he said, but Ferguson will help Ferg's signature dishes and drinks cross the bay (like the Rays Deluxe, with chicken breast, barbecue sauce, cheese and bacon).
"The Ferg's brand has been in this community for over 20 years, and it's a sign of stability," Mize, 35, said. "It was a no-brainer."
The Channel District around the Times Forum has long been an area of real estate interest and speculation. In 2010 Jeff Vinik bought the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Times Forum lease and 21 acres nearby.
Vinik and his partners have contemplated putting a hotel in the area, and some have wondered if it's an ideal spot for a baseball stadium.
Regardless of the area's future, Mize and Ferguson said they plan to make Ferg's the new gathering spot before and after concerts at the Times Forum, and, of course, the hockey games.
Mize hopes to be pouring beer by August.
Weston Phippen can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8321.