ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -The home of major league baseball's Tampa Bay Rays will be transformed into a football stadium for one day each year with the creation Wednesday of the St. Petersburg Bowl.
The game, one of 34 licensed by the NCAA for next season, will be played at Tropicana Field between Dec. 20-23 and feature teams from the Big East and Conference USA. It will be owned and operated by ESPN Regional Television.
``The St. Petersburg Bowl is another great bowl opportunity for the Big East,'' league commissioner Michael Tranghese said. ``The game is played in a Big East market and already has generated great interest in the local community.''
Florida's sixth bowl game is one of two additions to the postseason lineup, joining the Congressional Bowl in Washington, D.C. The NCAA did not approve a request for a third new game, the Rocky Mountain Bowl in Salt Lake City.
Tropicana Field has been home to big league baseball since 1998 and has hosted several major sporting events, including the NCAA Final Four in 1999.
The domed stadium also has served as a home for the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning and the Tampa Bay Storm of the Arena Football League, but is a newcomer to college football.
Organizers originally hoped to play the inaugural St. Petersburg Bowl on Dec. 21. The proposed date changed when the NFL released its schedule with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers playing at home on that day.
``St. Petersburg is a wonderful community and a great destination for CUSA fans,'' Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky said. ``The Big East Conference will surely provide a great opponent.''
In addition to approving two new games, the NCAA licensed 32 existing bowls. Among them are the Orange, Outback, Capital One, Gator and Champs Sports bowls, which are played in Florida each year.
With the addition of the St. Petersburg Bowl, the Big East will no longer face a C-USA opponent in the PapaJohns.com Bowl in Birmingham, Ala. Instead, the Southeastern Conference will provide the opposition.
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