St. Pete officials hoping Rays World Series watch parties boost tourism but don’t impact coronavirus


ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – The Tampa Bay Rays are back in the World Series and the first official watch party hosted by the City of St. Petersburg and Visit St. Pete/Clearwater is set for Tuesday night.

Some businesses in St. Pete are happy about the location that was chosen for the watch party by the new St. Pete Pier.

“I mean, we’re very excited about the crowds that are going to come out,” Spa Beach Bistro Bar Manager Taylor Katz said.

Katz expects business to be booming.

“People that are sports fans that haven’t made their way down here now have a reason to, which will be exciting,” Katz said. “We’ll have a satellite bar for everyone that’s viewing so it should be a nice crowd tonight.”

But some servers at restaurants closer to Tropicana Field, home of the Rays, are disappointed.

“Most definitely, if we had [the watch parties] at the Trop, it would most definitely be more business,” said Mahcario McKinney, a server at Bodega on Central.

McKinney said having the watch party at the pier draws customers away from businesses built by the Trop.

“I think they should have it at the Trop. It’s right in our backyard, it’s more cultural for us to do that,” McKinney said. “I do understand having it at the pier because it’s a new attraction, but I kinda believe they should probably have it at the Trop.”

Other businesses near the Trop don’t mind.

“Most sports fans want to be right here next to the stadium,” Mark Ferguson, the president of Ferg’s Sports Bar and Grill, said.

Ferguson said he’s not bothered by the city’s watch party being by the pier.

“I’m just glad that our doors are opening, that we have sports on TV and that the Rays are in the World Series,” Ferguson added. “We won the Stanely Cup, now we’re going to win the World Series!”

Ferguson had no doubt business would be busy for Game 1.

“Get here early and get your seats!” Ferguson said.

The CEO of Visit St. Pete/Clearwater said he hopes the Rays being on a national stage will help draw in tourists to boost the economy of the entire Tampa Bay area.

The City of St. Petersburg is allowing the watch parties and addressed safety measures that are being put in place with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in mind.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said Tuesday the Pinellas County coronavirus numbers are higher now than weeks previous, with a current two-week rolling average of 4.5%. He encouraged businesses and fans to remain vigilant.

“It’s going to be a busy week downtown and throughout the city. We need everyone to be responsible and realize what’s at stake here as these cases rise,” Kriseman said.

He said the watch parties sponsored by the city and Visit St.Pete/Clearwater won’t cause coronavirus spread.

“We’re doing everything we can to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Kriseman said. “I think we’ve thought it through and tried to create an atmosphere that is very safe.”

Moffitt Cancer Center’s Chief of Infectious Diseases, Dr. John Greene, said there are three key elements for a safe Rays watch party.

“They need to, number one, wear masks if possible. Number two, six-feet social distance as much as possible, that will definitely limit the spread. And number three is ventilation – is that you’re outdoors,” Dr. Greene said.

He said a fourth thing out of people’s control is that droplets spread more with yelling and screaming as opposed to talking quietly. He noted that the more people wearing their masks at the event, the better off our community will be.

But he said regardless, he expects the city’s event to be safe.

“I would say this is very safe and I think they did a very safe outdoor event for the Lightning and I don’t see why they can’t do it again the same way,” Dr. Greene said.

Fans tell us they’re excited to cheer on the team.

“Yeah, I’m going to try to make it out to at least one,” Rays fan Scott Osborn said.

“I think that’s really cool to have everyone together to watch it,” Rays fan Nicole Murillo said. “I think people are being really responsible and staying as far apart as they need to be.”

Osborn said he’s excited for the opportunity to safely gather.

“It’s such a special moment, such a special time,” he said.


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