Thespakusatsu Gunma got its start in a very unique way, when a hot springs resort in northern Gunma Prefecture (about 150km north of Tokyo) decided to try to drum up publicity for the resort on the back of a football team composed mainly of hotel employees and townsfolk. There were already a few players who had limited JFL or J.League experience when it kicked off operations in the Gunma Prefectural League, in 1997, but around 2002 or 2003 Thespa suddenly took off, when when two former Kashima Antlers players -- Ryosuke Okuno and Carlo Alberto de Sousa Santos -- were convinced to join as player-coaches. They were soon joined by former national team goalkeeper Nobuyuki Kojima, and this provided the core of the team that earned a spot in the J2 in 2005.
The team name, Thespa, is pronounced like some sort of ersatz Italian pasta dish (" ZA-spa "), but it was coined by a clever individual who deliberately mispronounced the words describing the hot springs resort of Kusatsu: ("The Spa" . . . Get it?). Success was only temporary, however, since Kusatsu is a very tiny town. Both financially and organizationally it is not the sort of place that can support a football team. In a bid to attract more local support (and in recognition of the fact that games are actually played in Maebashi City -- quite a distance from Kusatsu), the team changed its name in 2015 to Thespakusatsu Gunma.