Gator Bowl is a money maker for Northeast Florida businesses

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – No. 23 Texas A&M won’t play in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl against Wake Forest on Dec. 31 because of COVID-19 issues and season-ending injuries.

The 8-4 Aggies were scheduled to leave for Jacksonville on Sunday before announcing Wednesday that they wouldn’t be able to participate in the bowl game. The team did not provide any details on the COVID-19 issues or injuries on the team.

On Wednesday night, reported that it’ll be Rutgers that replaces the Aggies in the game at TIAA Bank Field.

RELATED: Report: Rutgers stepping in to replace Texas A&M in Gator Bowl

The game not happening was a concern for local businesses who have been gearing up for the game, preparing for the large crowds of fans who eat at restaurants and stay at hotels.

“Not having this event [would] be a pretty big loss for a lot of people down here, a lot of businesses,” said Will Frazier with Bold City Brewery.

Frazier says he sees between a 20-40% bump in business from bowl games. He said COVID-19 forcing Texas A&M out of the game is unfortunate but canceling the game altogether would have been a hard blow to his business.

“You wanna be sympathetic for what people are going through and also you wanna be sympathetic for what’s going on with you,” Frazier said. “It’s just one of those things. This is the life we’ve been living for the last couple of years.”

Other business owners say these events are needed, especially because of the financial hit they’ve taken during the pandemic.

“Just having those events happen are so key to every business owner down here—small or big—it’s a huge deal,” said Maime-Lue Anderton, manager of Mag’s Cafe. “It’s just nice to see an influx of regular people just to walk into the café.”

The Gator Bowl is estimated to bring between $14 million-$16 million of business to Northeast Florida each year, according to its website. More than $500,000 a day generated by the event is donated to local organizations.

About the Authors:

Renee Beninate is a Florida native and award-winning reporter who joined the News4Jax team in June 2021.