Fans getting ready for next week's College Football National Championship can brace themselves for heightened security around Tampa.
Tampa Assistant Police Chief Marc Hamlin recently spoke at Raymond James Stadium, host of the January 9 game. He says they've been planning for the championship for over a year. Hamlin says one of the reasons college football chose Tampa as the location is the city's history hosting major events.
“Big events such as the Super Bowl, the Republican National Convention, and I think at times we take for granted, Gasparilla, one of the largest parades in the country, because we do it every year,” Hamlin said. “It's also a very major undertaking."
Hamlin says attendees at all game-related events will have to go through metal detectors and bag checks. Security will be tight, but Hamlin is still urging the public to be vigilant: if you see something, say something.
“There is nothing specific to worry about with regard to this game or the events surrounding this game,” Hamlin said. “But if anyone doesn't think that the world is dangerous because of terrorism and things going on, then I think they're taking this too lightly.”
The championship game at Raymond James Stadium has slightly stricter security rules than the game-related events this weekend around Tampa. Similar to an NFL game, fans are only allowed to bring in hand-size bags, or else they will have to use stadium-approved clear bags.
Hamlin’s advice? Be patient.
“Security will be robust, and if everyone arrives a little earlier than they normally would, they'll be able to get into the game on time, enjoy the tailgate, enjoy the kickoff and enjoy the festivities downtown,” Hamlin said.
Heavy traffic is expected near the stadium and downtown, so factor that into planning. Visit wusfnews.org this weekend for traffic updates.