Gasparilla Bowl beach bash will return to Treasure Island

ESPN’s Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl is coming to Treasure Island with its special form of beach invasion, complete with marching bands and player competition.

TREASURE ISLAND — ESPN’s Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl is coming to Treasure Island with its special form of beach invasion, complete with marching bands and player competition.

ESPN will host the 2021 Gasparilla Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on December 23 at 7 p.m. For the fifth year, ESPN Events will partner with Treasure Island's Parks and Recreation Department to host a parade and competitions on the island’s beach on Tuesday, Dec. 21, from 2 to 5 p.m.

The nationally televised NCAA college football bowl game will feature two teams derived from eight different conferences, as well as two independent programs. However, exactly which two teams will compete will not be decided until a few weeks before the Gasparilla Bowl, making it difficult for fans of the teams to make travel plans and book hotel reservations in advance.

Mayor Tyler Payne said hopefully the event will continue to grow and the invasion will come back each year. He added the only negative to having the main event in Tampa is that many Treasure Island hotels do not reap the rewards from fans staying on the island.

He noted at least many hundreds get to visit bars, restaurants and shops on the island.

“We wish we had more hotel rooms generated,” he said. “It’s a disappointment, since the event is in Tampa, we don’t see the impact here. Fans stay closer to the main venue in Tampa.”

During the Nov. 16 city commission meeting, Assistant Parks and Recreation Director Justin Tramble told officials the ESPN Gasparilla Bowl Beach Invasion will take place on the beach behind Gulf Front Park at 10400 Gulf Blvd. Before athletic competition kicks off, participating college marching bands will herald its arrival by strutting towards the beach by way of the City's downtown corridor on 107th Avenue.

Once on the beach behind Gulf Front Park, the marching bands will compete against each other, “providing an exciting and entertaining experience for our residents and visitors,” Tramble said. “The beach event will also include a series of competitions between the football players of both college teams.”

The Gasparilla-themed event will also have food vendors and a variety of interactive games and activities for the Treasure Island community and visiting fans.

“Since 2017, the city has sponsored the Gasparilla Bowl by hosting bowl week beach events on the city's public beach. The City of Treasure Island and ESPN Events has a strong relationship that has benefited the community,” Tramble said. “This year, ESPN Events is looking to continue the strong partnership by becoming more involved with the hotel community.”

The Recreation Department will be noted as a Championship sponsor for hosting and sponsoring the event at a cost of $10,000. “The City is getting the traditional sponsorship benefits, and the exposure that comes with it, while also getting a high quality community event,” Tramble told commissioners. The city will get national exposure, with Treasure Island’s logo included on the ribbon board during the nationally televised football game. In addition, Treasure Island’s logo will be included on the official event website with a link to the city’s website.

“The City’s Parks and Recreation Department continues to work with the Treasure Island-Madeira Beach Chamber of Commerce and the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce in order to maximize the positive impact of the public events and to build off of the success of the previous year’s event,” Tramble said. “The event has been well-received by the residents, businesses and visitors and we look forward to continue with the growth, especially with the newly incorporated parade down 107th.”