From a humble start in 1989 in the Tampa YMCA basketball gym, the Gasparilla Classic Gymnastics Invitational has grown leaps and bounds. The event, hosted by Lightning City Gymnastics, is in its 33rd year and one of the largest gymnastics competitions in the country. And for the first time, the event is coming to the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach.
The event, scheduled for Feb. 26-28, traditionally takes place at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, but the venue cleared its calendar for the first quarter of 2021 in anticipation of the canceling of spring training. And when Lightning City Gymnastics president Tim Keckler found himself in need of a venue, he knew just who to call.
“To say the Gasparilla Classic Gymnastics Invitational is a large event is an understatement” said Keckler. “So when I suddenly found myself in need of a venue, I knew it couldn’t be just anywhere. I’m familiar with the Ocean Center and know they’ve been able to continue hosting events safely, so they immediately came to mind.”
Quilt Week, one of the Ocean Center’s largest events, normally takes place during the last week of February each year. However, as with many events over the past 10 months, the show was canceled due to COVID concerns.
“While we certainly understand their decision, losing Quilt Week on our calendar for 2021 was a disappointment,” said Ocean Center Director Tim Riddle. “But as luck would have it, that cancelation made it possible for us to accommodate the Gasparilla Classic Gymnastics Invitational, and we couldn’t be happier to have them here.”
The Gasparilla Classic Gymnastics Invitational expects to attract 3,500 gymnasts from 91 women’s teams and 41 men’s teams throughout the United States, bringing with them thousands of spectators. Olympic medalists have both competed in and attended previous events.
“This is a prime example of the power of relationships,” said Riddle. “In one phone call, we solved a problem for Mr. Keckler, while also filling an unexpected opening on our calendar. Talk about a win-win!”
Due to COVID-19 precautions, the event is not open to the general public.