ST. PETERSBURG — Much is riding on tonight's game at Tropicana Field, and not all of it is between the first- and third-base foul lines.
If the Rays beat the Rangers, that means more business for hotels, restaurants and other businesses, especially with the Yankees on deck.
But even if they don't, tonight's game means a better spotlight for St. Petersburg than last week's two day games, Mayor Bill Foster said.
"Who tunes in to watch a day game?" Foster said. "This time, we'll have a prime-time audience that, from a marketing standpoint, will have a much bigger impact."
In tangible ways, however, a victory tonight means a bigger boost for local businesses.
"I'm not aware of any Texas fans who stayed with us the first two games, and I don't think it'll be different (tonight)," said Keith Overton, chief operating officer for the Tradewinds Island Resorts in St. Pete Beach. "If we win, there's no question it will bring a bunch of New York fans. It would be a huge boost for us because their fans travel for games."
For upscale hotels such as the Tradewinds and the Renaissance Vinoy Resort & Golf Club, which is where visiting major-league teams stay, an extended playoff run means more heads in beds.
"Game 5 is good for us because we get the team back for another night," said Chris Adkins, the Vinoy's director of sales and marketing. "If the Rays win and make it to the World Series, it's a big bump for business because of seasonal quirks in the travel industry.
"Corporate meetings aren't held on Halloween because it's a big family holiday," Adkins said. "So if we get the World Series that weekend, that's pure upside for us."
"The Rays aren't a big deal for us," said Dale Grayl, who owns Gatsby's Restaurant at Grayl's Hotel on Beach Drive. "The smaller, independent hotels don't see much from the playoffs."
Other business owners, however, are salivating.
Mark Ferguson, owner of Ferg's Sports Bar and Grill, said he expects an extra 100 fans tonight and, if the Rays win, an extra 150 fans Friday and Saturday nights for ALCS games. In the Grand Central District, Beak's Old Florida tavern owner Jamie Farquharson said there will be a noticeable uptick in customers if the Rays go all the way.
"We had 10 percent more business when they went to the World Series in 2008," Farquharson said. "And with the Yankees in town, it would be as big as the World Series."
Michael Van Sickler can be reached at (727) 893-8037 or [email protected]