After a decade at Tropicana Field, the Gasparilla Bowl is moving across the bay to Raymond James Stadium, bowl officials announced Wednesday morning.
The move begins this year, with RJS set to host ESPN's game at 8 p.m. on Dec. 20. The stadium's other postseason game, the Jan. 1 Outback Bowl, is unaffected by the decision.
"We are excited about the continued growth of this bowl game," ESPN Events vice president Clint Overby said in a statement. "I want to thank those we have worked with in St. Petersburg and at Tropicana Field in helping us build this game into a quality, postseason experience."
Prepare for an invasion like never before... The Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl is heading home to Tampa! WHERE: Raymond James StadiumWHEN: Thursday, December 20th, 2018 on @espn THE STORY: https://t.co/7EMnilxfjx#RaidingRayJay ⚔️ pic.twitter.com/d4mjDz3se3— Gasparilla Bowl (@GasparillaBowl) May 23, 2018
Bowl officials stressed that the move is not an abandonment of Pinellas County. The game, which has cycled through multiple sponsors since its 2008 debut, was previously branded as the St. Petersburg Bowl before adopting a new name last year. Game-week activities will still include a visit to Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital and a battle at the beach in Treasure Island.
"Since the inception of the bowl in 2008 our staff has aimed to forge special relationships with stakeholders on both sides of Bay," the bowl's executive director, Brett Dulaney, said in a statement. "This move will continue to support our ability to better expand our relationships across Tampa Bay. With our new home at Raymond James Stadium, Bad Boy Mowers, the two participating teams and their fans will be able to enjoy the incredible benefits of one of the best football venues in America."
The game, which will feature an American Athletic Conference team against an ACC or Conference-USA opponent, has drawn sparse crowds at the Rays' home. The announced attendance for December's Temple-Florida International matchup was 16,363.