Before the Wolverines and Gamecocks claw at each other inside Raymond James Stadium on New Year's Day, the folks behind the desk at the Hyatt Place are running their version of the X's and O's, preparing for a big Bowl rush.
"People started booking when the announcement was made. We saw a big increase the day after the announcement and we haven't seen it stop since," said Kelly McGrath, assistant general manager for the Hyatt Place.
Normally, this time of year is slower than a lineman's 40 for the hospitality industry, but fortunately for managers here, the game provides a much needed burst up the middle.
"We are booked up for the game. We have a lot of Gamecock fans coming in," McGrath said.
Both teams are in town, which means Bowl Week is officially kicking off. Wednesday night, players feasted on steaks and bloomin' onions at the team welcome dinner.
Tuesday's game will be the 27th in Tampa Bay, and over that time, it's created memories on the field and lined pockets off of it.
"We have calculated through our research that over the 26 years we've had a Bowl game in the Tampa Bay area, there's been over $1 billion in economic impact," said Outback Bowl president Jim McVay. "Bowl travelers are big spenders. They're here to celebrate."
That means local restaurants, bars and attractions should have the chance to do their own end zone celebration. Upwards of 30,000 fans are expected to be out-of-towners.
"The fans love coming here, it really has become a marquee bowl," said Greg Orchard with Tampa Bay and Company.
Tourism officials hope that they love it so much they keep coming back. For the folks at home, the game will air on ESPN and will be seen both nationally and internationally. So whether the fans are cheering for South Carolina or Michigan -- tourism officials believe it's the Tampa Bay community that truly comes out on top.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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