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Hundreds Of Boaters Expected Along Tampa's Waterfront Ahead of College Football Championship Game

Tampa has hosted four Super Bowls, the Republican National Convention, and the annual Gasparilla Festival. 

But that doesn't mean officials are taking waterfront security for granted ahead of Monday's College Football Championship game.

Before the Clemson Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide square off at Raymond James Stadium, thousands of fans will converge in downtown Tampa for a host of festivities along both sides of the Riverwalk.

Marine officers from the city, county, state and Coast Guard will be out in full force patrolling the Hillsborough River, Garrison Channel and the turning basin next to the Tampa Convention Center.

Tampa police Master Patrol Officer Luis Vazquez says he doesn't anticipate any boating restrictions surrounding championship festivities but officers will be enforcing a slow speed zone. They'll also be patrolling to make sure boaters are being responsible.

"Come out here and have a good time, but if you drink too much, you're probably going to wind up going to jail for boating under the influence,” he said. "Just make sure you're safe and everyone on your boat's safe. If you're the operator-owner, you're in charge of the people on your boat. Make sure everyone's going to be inside the vessel and not doing anything crazy."

Steve Decatur is with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's office. He says events like Gasparilla have given his agency's marine patrol unit plenty of experience managing boat traffic downtown.

“Like concerts on the river at Curtis Hixon Park or any other big events down here with a large number of vessels, you'll see stationary patrol vessels that'll be positioned for those events,” he said. “This isn't anything that we're concerned with as far as being overwhelming for our agency.”

There will be free concerts all weekend in downtown Tampa. Decatur says boaters can anchor on the waterfront as long as they don't block the main channel.

The heaviest boat traffic is expected over the weekend. By Monday, officials say people will either be at the game or in front of a TV screen.