Tampa Bay area ready to shine for national title game

By Jason Lanning and Fallon Silcox, Bay News 9
Last Updated: Monday, January 09, 2017, 9:52 AM EST

Tampa has been in the spotlight the last several days as the College Football Championship game has neared. Now, the area is ready to shine in prime time.

Alabama and Clemson kick off at 8 p.m.

With more than 100,000 people in Tampa for the game, Visit Tampa Bay said the exposure alone will have a lasting impact.

"It's a great situation for us," said Visit Tampa Bay's Santiago Corrada, who estimated more than 600 media members are in town to cover the game. "It's just a great opportunity for us to highlight this amazing destination that you and I call home."

Meanwhile, Mayor Bob Buckhorn has been moving around town attending events, but also working behind the scenes with law enforcement and other services to make sure they have what they need.

"If I keep going like this, I am going to get more gray hair," he said with a laugh.

The mayor said with past big events under the city's belt, being in the national spotlight is becoming easier to coordinate. And with every event, the city gets even better, he said.

"The fact that we've done four Super Bowls, we did the Republican National Convention, we did Bollywood, the Women's (NCAA basketball) Final Four," Buckhorn said. "Every time we do one of those, we learn more and more. We don't repeat the mistakes we made, we find gaps and fill them."

The mayor has started each day the last week or so with a 9 a.m. planning meeting. It brings together all city services to make sure everyone is on board with the day's events and plans.

Meanwhile, this weekend's cold, wet conditions didn't dampen the spirits of Alabama and Clemson fans in town for the national championship game.

It was a packed weekend of events that included a concert on Clearwater Beach. The fun leads right up to kickoff at 8 p.m.

"It's cold. It's not any different from where we just came from," said one Clemson fan. "Welcome to sunny Florida."

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Fans tested their own football skills at Fan Central, rocked out at Curtis Hixon Park with free concerts for the last three nights, and took part in Media Day.

Monday night’s game is sold out, and the cheapest nose-bleed seat you can find "resale" will set you back almost $2,000.

The "clear bag policy" will be in place -- similar to Tampa Bay Buccaneers game. Parking lots open at 11:30 a.m., and tailgate activities start at noon.

Bay News 9 Digital Media Producer Rod Gipson will be at Monday's game. Check back this evening for his reports and photos.