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Tsunami Of Tourists Expected As NHL All-Star Game, Gasparilla Parade, Converge

Steve Newborn
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is flanked, from left to right, by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan

A potential tsunami of tourists could be in store for Tampa when the National Hockey League's All-Star Game is held on the same weekend in January as the Gasparilla parade. But NHL and city officials are saying they'll be prepared.

Tampa has hosted one hockey All-Star Game, back in 1999. And it's hosted Gasparilla parades since 1904 - including the last time the Super Bowl was here, in 2001.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said it could present challenges in terms of traffic and security, but this "balancing act" will work out just fine.

"For us to be able to host this event and host these amazing athletes that are here today, and to celebrate the decades of success that the NHL has and to marry it with the Gasparilla parade on a beautiful January weekend, with all of the activities that will go along with this," Buckhorn said, "it's going to be an amazing experience for our community, and we could not be prouder."

National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman - in town for a news conference at the host site, Amalie Arena - says  there's always resistance to change, but its time to be "bold and daring."

"Our game, our events over the weekend will be televised around the world, in somewhere between 100 and 150 countries," Bettman said. "And giving Gasparilla and Tampa that kind of exposure over the long run has to be good for everybody."

Both Buckhorn and Bettman credited Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik's commitment to the team and downtown Tampa for helping land the game.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.