Gasparilla and NHL All Star Game put squeeze on Tampa hotel rooms

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Everyone knows Gasparilla is Tampa’s biggest party—and in 2018, even more people are expected to descend on the Bay area during the annual pirate invasion.

The National Hockey League’s All-Star Game has penciled itself into Gasparilla weekend, adding a weekend of events to an already full schedule, and some worry the combination of All-Star weekend and Gasparilla may be too much of a good thing.

The NHL asked that 1,700 hotel rooms be set aside for teams, fans and members of the media that will cover the event from around the world.

The city has already managed to set aside 2,600 rooms, anticipating the draw of hockey and pirates will be larger than expectations.

This presents a problem for Gasparilla visitors, like Kim Britt, who normally books a room downtown for the pirate invasion. She likes to participate in the parade and parties without worrying about drinking and driving to get home.

“We stay every year and this will be my ninth year booking rooms for all of the parades and we do that because it’s safe for us and we’re not having to worry about driving drunk because there is debauchery going on,” said Britt.

Britt, along with many others have already been turned away by hotels when they’ve tried to book rooms on Gasparilla weekend.

“I understand it’s a wonderful thing to have the NHL come in. I’m a hockey fan myself, but you have to think about the local people too,” said Britt.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn says he understands All-Star weekend will present challenges to many people.

“This is going to be a balancing act. This is adding another dimension to what is already a big weekend for our community,” said Buckhorn.

Although Mayor Buckhorn understand’s the events’ challenges, he also sees great opportunity with All-Star weekend.

“We would hope just as our citizens have done for every occasion that we have hosted major events, whether it was the RNC, whether it was Bollywood, whether it was college
football national championship that to some degree they will roll with the punches and recognize this is great for our city,” said Buckhorn.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman says he believes the combination of events will showcase the city to a much larger audience than it’s been exposed to.

“The combination of NHL All Star Week and Gasparilla, I think may cause people to focus on both of our events going forward in very special ways. Our events of the weekend will be televised around the world in somewhere between 100 and 150 countries and giving Gasparilla and Tampa that kind of exposure for the long run has to be good for everybody,” said Bettman.

Buckhorn and others said at an afternoon new conference on Thursday some hotel rooms may be released closer to Gasparilla weekend as the hotels and city find out exactly how many people will be coming in for the NHL Events.

Kim Britt just hopes if the rooms become available, they will be offered at a reasonable price.

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