All eyes on Tampa for College Football Playoff National Championship

Merissa Lynn reports

- Kickoff to the college football season is still a week away for most teams, but the season's end is still just around the corner. That's because the next College Football Playoff champion will be crowned in Tampa in January.

"We understand we only get one chance to make a first impression," said Rob Higgins, executive director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission. "There's pressure from that regard, but it's just so much fun to be able to put togeter a vision like this in the bid and then try to capitalize on it, have the opportunity to leverage it as best for our community."

Higgins and the staff at the Tampa Bay Sports Commission have been planning the event since the city got the nod in 2013. Since then, four semifinal games and two national championships featuring the new playoff format have been played.

"The fact that we were kind of drinking water from a firehose in the early times when we were just establishing the event, getting even a feeling for our culture and what kind of events would take place around it," said Michael Kelly, COO of the College Football Playoff. "Now, we've kind of run through two to a high level of success, been able to plan for years in advance with the folks here in Tampa, only has made us that much better."

The main focus is the game, but every month College Football Playoff officials, including Kelly, are in Tampa to address the other community events leading up to the game. 

"Oh that's very much our dream and focus is to certainly it's going to be a great experience if your team happens to make this game, but we want this to be a celebration of college football and really a celebration of Tampa Bay regardless of who's in the game," said Kelly.

The game will take place at Raymond James Stadium. Other events will take place around the Bay Area, like at Amalie Arena, where the College Football Playoff will hold its version of Super Bowl Media Day.

"There's over a thousand journalists that cover this game that'll certainly be doing their work with our teams that are in the game," said Kelly. "We open that for free to the general public to come into Amalie Arena and experience that which is a really unique thing if you're into football."

Officials said they would like to see a game plan in place for the game by Labor Day. There's been plenty of sleepless nights, but come January 9, 2017, Higgins says it'll all pay off.

"To be able to do this for our hometown is phenomenal," said Higgins. "It's our job to stay up late at night to make sure it goes off without a hitch."

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