When it was finalized that the football team would be making the trip to St. Petersburg for the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl, the thoughts of sunny weather and white sandy beaches were engrained in my mind. When the staff made the two-hour drive to scope out all of the destinations for bowl festivities this past Thursday, it became apparent that St. Pete is the perfect bowl destination.
Location, Location, Location
It's mid to late December. Everywhere on television are shots of snow here and windy/cold temperatures there. In St. Pete this past week? It was 82 degrees with barely a cloud in the sky.
The first stop on the site visit brought us to the Sirata Beach Resort smack dab on the Gulf of Mexico. This bustling hotel will be home to the beach bash and battle of the bands that are set to take place on Dec. 19 from 3-6 p.m. and 2-5 p.m. on Dec. 20, respectively.
With acres upon acres of white sand on the No. 1 beach in the U.S. according to TripAdvisor, it will be quite the setup for both UCF and Ball State players, coaches, support staff and fans to thoroughly enjoy themselves. I heard the 2009 belly flop contest was quite the competition, and I can only imagine what this year's showdown will have in store.
Many Tampa Bay Rays fans are probably familiar with one of the best places to go 81+ times a year pre and postgame during the months of April-October. Ferg's Sports Bar & Grill will be home to the bowl block party on Dec. 20 beginning at 5 p.m. the night before the big game.
I've experienced this place first-hand gameday, and I must say the atmosphere is phenomenal. If you are looking to sit down inside, enjoy a drink out on the massive covered patio or head upstairs and enjoy a view of Tropicana Field while you enjoy a meal, then Ferg's has you covered. Speaking of covers, there is also a tunnel under the highway directly to the Trop to ensure everyone in your party arrives safely.
Anyone can play a bowl game in a football stadium, but what Tropicana Field brings to the mix is a unique venue combining America's pastime with the most popular sport of my generation. It is just one of three bowl games to be played in baseball-only stadiums (Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco and the Pinstripe Bowl in Yankee Stadium).
The setup works well with the field arranged along the first-base line all the way from home plate to the right-field bleachers. This allows fans to be as close to the action as possible, especially in the end zones.
Taking the baseball/football combination to a whole new level, I'm petitioning the bowl's administrators for a rousing rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" to be sung in between the third and fourth quarter. I'm pretty sure that timeframe matches well with what would be the seventh-inning stretch.
One For The Road
The best part of the site visit? I'm going to have to go with the Sirata game room. Some of the all-time greats were assembled in this building. You had the Rush 2049 driving simulator, Golden Tee, Bags (corn hole) and last, but certainly not least, a combo of Ms. Pac Man and Galaga.
There are many can't misses on this bowl trip, and this certainly is one you can't pass up. For a trip down memory lane with Ms. Pac Man, check out the video below.