This year’s College Football Playoff Championship Game will be held at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. In addition, the annual Outback Bowl will be at the same venue, and those visiting from out of town may be wondering what there is to do while in the area.
The college football bowl season is already underway, but the bigger and more highly-profiled games won’t happen for another couple of weeks. This year, the biggest game of them all, the College Football Championship Game, will be held at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.
The annual Outback Bowl will also be played at the same venue.
For the visiting fans coming from out of town, they’re likely thinking about what there is to do while in Tampa before and after the game. Some fans, especially the ones who travel from far away, like to make a trip out of it.
For those fans, this is a guide that will help them make the most out of their experience while in the Bay Area.
Both games will provide a huge boost to the region’s tourism profile, and those who choose to reside in local hotels and dine at local restaurants will help the area’s economy in a big way. In addition, both games, especially the national championship, will help give the region more exposure, hopefully attracting additional visitors from across the country and around the world.
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The Tampa Bay Area already attracts millions of visitors and international travelers per year, and the region has previously hosted four Super Bowls, one World Series, two Stanley Cup Finals, one NHL All Star Game, three ArenaBowls (Arena Football League), one Men’s Final Four, one Women’s Final Four, two Frozen Fours (men’s ice hockey) and many more events.
As you can see, Tampa Bay has hosted numerous events and gained plenty of national exposure, but the region has never hosted the NCAA College Football National Championship game. In essence, this game, along with the Outback Bowl, will provide the region with some added exposure that helps when bidding for other big events, athletic or not.
More recently, Raymond James Stadium (locally known as “Ray Jay”) underwent a massive, $140 million renovation over the past year or so, and there’s more to come, as the first stage was completed for the current NFL season.
Though the stadium was a bit outdated, the main reason for the renovation was to help attract a bid for the college football championship and potentially another Super Bowl.
With that said, the stadium, and the Bay Area, are ready to go and host two of college football’s biggest events of the year. Fans coming to the games are certainly in for a treat, especially those who travel from colder parts of the country, like fans of the Iowa Hawkeyes, which will play the Florida Gators in the Outback Bowl.
Once you get off the plane, or drive into town, and check into your hotel, there are several things you’ll want to do while in the Tampa Bay Area.
Outback Bowl planner
The 2017 Outback Bowl is quickly approaching, and the game will be played on Monday, Jan. 2, with kickoff slated for 1 p.m. Though the game is the main attraction, there are several team outings and events open to the public the week leading up to the big game.
If you’re planning on arriving in Tampa around the same time as both teams, which is on Dec. 26, then there’s plenty to do before game day.
On the official website of the Outback Bowl, there’s a schedule of events, and it lays out what the fans can take part in leading up to the game. Most of these events are free, but there are others that the public must pay for admission. Also, most of the events listed are hosted by the bowl committee, while others are “do it on your own” type of outings.
One of the first events listed is the Players Night at Splitsville in the Channelside Bay Plaza on Dec. 27. This event is open to the public at 7:15 p.m., and fans can watch the two teams compete in a bowling tournament.
Following the bowling night is the Busch Gardens Team Outing on Dec. 28 where both teams and their fans can enjoy a day of fun at one of the United States’ premier theme parks.
Admission tickets to Busch Gardens Tampa for the general public will be available at the main gate. This is highly recommended if you have time and want to enjoy the day with friends, family and other passionate fans.
After the Busch Gardens event, players and coaches from each team will visit with the children at Tampa General Hospital, which is located right near downtown. But, this event is invitation only and not open to the public.
On the same day as the hospital visit is the Team Night with the Tampa Bay Lightning, as both teams will enjoy a game hosted by the Lightning, which will play the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs on Dec. 29.
The game will be held at Amalie Arena in downtown Tampa, and it’ll be a great night of fun and thrilling action, especially for those who haven’t watched a live NHL game in person.
Two events that fans should definitely check out while in town are the Clearwater Beach Day and the New Year’s Eve Parade in Ybor City. If you’re already planning on going to the beach in Pinellas County, head on over to the team beach day at Clearwater Beach and enjoy the sun and some live entertainment.
The event will run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Dec. 30, and guests can enjoy live music, skydivers, tug-of-war and many other contests.
The New Year’s Eve Parade is another “can’t miss” event, and it will begin at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 31. The parade route is along Seventh Avenue in Ybor City, and it will feature a pep rally, floats, cheerleaders and bands from both schools and twenty other marching bands. It’s a free event and be sure to bring the whole family.
Additionally, if you have some extra time to spend, explore the Ybor City area, and take a look around one of Tampa’s oldest historic districts. There are plenty of museums, attractions, restaurants and bars to enjoy while there.
Aside from those events listed above, there are many more that you can check out and attend leading up to the game. There’s something going on everyday before kickoff, and you won’t want to miss out. It should be a beautiful day for a football game featuring two of the best teams in the Southeastern and Big Ten Conferences.
National Championship Game planner
For those planning to attend the College Football National Championship on Jan. 9 at Raymond James Stadium, there will be several fan events leading up to the game, like the Outback Bowl, but are more unique to the championship game itself.
Before it all gets started, though, the stadium will have hosted other big events, such as the Outback Bowl and a Week 17 meeting between the Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFL, but it will certainly be ready to go on the second Monday in January.
One of the main events leading up to the championship game is the Playoff Fan Central at the Tampa Convention Center in the downtown area. According to the event’s official website, “This three-day, family-friendly event gives thousands of fans the opportunity to be a part of the College Football Playoff National Championship experience.”
Fans will get to enjoy featured appearances from the universities’ bands, cheerleaders and mascots, mini pep rallies, interactive games and more.
The Playoff Fan Central will begin on Friday, Jan. 6 at 3 p.m. and will run through Sunday, Jan. 8 at 8 p.m. If you want to attend this event, make sure to purchase tickets as soon as possible.
Another main event is the Extra Yard 5K run starting, and ending, at the Championship Campus at Amalie Arena in downtown Tampa. This run will take place on Sunday, Jan. 8 at 8 a.m., and “the 3.1 mile race will incorporate a scenic route down a portion of iconic Bayshore Boulevard, with a portion of the event including a 1-Mile Family Fun Run,” per the event website.
Participants will receive a shirt (for the first 1,000 registrants), a finisher’s medal, a ticket to the Playoff Fan Central at the Tampa Convention Center, a chipped race bib and one entry into a drawing for two tickets to the championship game on Jan. 9. Admission and registration to the 5K run is $30 and $15 for the Family Fun Run. More information can be found here.
Finally, the Championship Beach Bash at Pier 60 on Clearwater Beach, which has been consistently ranked as one of America’s top beaches, is just another one of the main events going on before the game. Visitors can join the Tampa Bay Sports Commission and the passionate fans of both teams for a day of fun at the beach.
Those that attend can enjoy live music, inflatables, games, a “Kids Zone” and appearances by both teams’ bands and cheerleaders.
The Beach Bash, presented by Visit St. Petersburg-Clearwater, will begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 8 and will run until 4 p.m. It’s free and open to the public, and guests are welcome to stay on the beach, explore the area and enjoy the sunset afterwards. If you’re planning on making a trip to the beach anyways, it’s recommended that you check this fun event out as well.
Aside from the events connected to the national championship, there are other things that visitors can do in the Tampa Bay Area while they’re in town.
From spending the day in Ybor City to exploring the flora and fauna of the Gulf Coast at Fort De Soto Park in Pinellas County to taking the new Cross-Bay Ferry from downtown Tampa to St. Petersburg, or vice versa, there’s something for everyone in the Bay Area.
Both the Outback Bowl and NCAA College Football Championship Game are coming up, and the Tampa Bay Area will see an influx in visitors come to the region in a short period of time. For those traveling from out of town, there will be plenty to take part in leading up to each game, and it should be an exciting time.
Aside from the events connected to the respective games, there’s more that you can check out while in Tampa Bay. Hopefully everyone has a great time and may the best teams win!