Tampa has been awarded one of the first national college football championship games under the new playoff system, the College Football Playoff board announced Monday.
Dallas will host the first-ever game in early 2015, followed by Phoenix the next year. Tampa will host the 2017 game.
The college football playoff system will replace the existing Bowl Championship Series games. Currently, the top two teams in the computerized BCS rankings meet in a national championship game, but starting next season, the top four teams will meet in a series of playoff matchups as chosen by a 13-member committee.
"The BCS championship has been the second most-watched annual sports event in the United States, trailing only the Super Bowl, and the playoff game will rise to a new level," Bill Hancock, the executive director of the College Football Playoff, said in a press release about the announcement.
Tampa has hosted four Super Bowls -- most recently in 2009 -- and also hosts the Outback Bowl every year at the Buccaneers' home field, Raymond James Stadium.
Under the BCS system, the championship was always held at the site of one of the top-tier bowls -- Pasadena, New Orleans, Phoenix, or Miami -- meaning Tampa was never eligible to host.
The game could mean an estimated $200-million to $300-million windfall, though that figure is just an estimate since the first such game won't happen until 2015.
Rob Higgins, the executive director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission -- the organization behind the bid -- tweeted that landing the games was a "defining moment for our community."
The Bay Area is on a roll, from hosting NCAA basketball regionals in the last few years, to the men's and women's NCAA Final Fours. Plus, the Forum will host the 'Frozen Four' hockey championship again in 2016.
"We went out there and executed a plan and we did exactly what we knew we were capable of doing. And that was to compete with any city in the country for any event, and be successful," Mayor Bob Buckhorn offered.
"Tampa Bay is a terrific destination with a beautiful stadium and a community that is committed to hosting big events in a gracious and thorough manner. We are very happy with the facilities, the creative proposal and the commitment of support from community leaders," Hancock added.
The game is scheduled for January 9, 2017. It will be broadcast on ESPN.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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