The headquarters for Shriners International is in Tampa. There's also a Shriners Hospitals for Children in Tampa.
So it just makes sense to have the annual East-West Shrine Game, which benefits the Shriners, in the Tampa Bay area, too.
That was the thinking behind moving college football's longest-running all-star matchup from Orlando to St. Petersburg, said Harold Richardson, the game's executive director.
"This is where our home is," he said today.
The game will be held Jan. 21 at Tropicana Field and will be televised live by the NFL Network. There also will be a game the following year under the two-year contract.
As part of the event, players and coaches will visit Shriners Hospitals for Children in Tampa to spend time with patients.
"Our intent is to have this game here forever," Richardson said.
The annual game, which originated in 1925, is a chance for scouts and coaches to run their eyes over top prospects. Since its inception, 62 East-West Shrine alumni have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and there currently are 246 players on NFL rosters.
The game is moving from the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, which can accommodate 60,000 to 70,000 fans, to a configuration at Tropicana Field that can accommodate only 27,000 fans.
However, Richardson said a crowd of 20,000 to 25,000 would be more than acceptable, given the plethora of games fans can watch.
Although Richardson had been contemplating the move, it was Ron Helinger, a member of the St. Petersburg Sports Alliance, who contacted the Shriners about having the game in St. Petersburg.
Mayor Bill Foster formed the alliance to bring sporting events to the city after the Tampa Bay Rays announced they no longer would use Al Lang Stadium for spring training games. The alliance also has brought international baseball and the professional soccer team FC Tampa Bay to St. Petersburg.
The East-West Shrine Game also fits the mission of Sunburst Entertainment Group, a subsidiary of the Rays that seeks ways to use the Trop when the baseball team isn't playing. The Shriners' two-year contract is with Sunburst Entertainment.
At today's announcement at the Trop, Foster told the bevy of Shriners, "Know this city embraces you and loves you for the work that you do."