Tampa, FL -- If you live in the Tampa Bay Area, it probably felt cold out there on New Year’s Day. Light rain. Temperatures below 60°.
But for people who came into town for the Outback Bowl, it was still a heck of a lot better than what they left back home.
You could almost tell which team fans were rooting for at this year’s game by what they were wearing. Not just the colors, but the length of their sleeves and pants.
“I never put on pants in Florida, it's never really that cold. Always shorts,” said Kevin Carney sporting a Michigan T-shirt and a pair of cargo shorts.
In fact, lots of Michigan fans considered it downright balmy compared to what they left up north.
“It's -9 in Ann Arbor so we will take this any day,” said Michigan fan Kimberly Baumgartner, also wearing shorts. Baumgartner even brought sunglasses to be optimistic.
She never needed them.
South Carolina fans were more likely to break out the head warmers and mittens. Some even wrapped themselves in team blankets.
“The last two days spoiled you,” said David Hord, who drove in from South Carolina. “And then, today it was cool and breezy and misty rain.”
50 degrees was better than the 30 back in Columbia. Yet it was cold enough to turn tailgate grills into outdoor heaters.
“It's football season. We love it. Go Tampa. Go 'Cocks. No snow, so we're happy,” said Gamecocks fan Shannon Burrows.”
One thing for certain, whether rooting for Garnet red or Michigan Blue, fans dropped a lot of green in Tampa Bay this week.
“I'd say I budgeted about $500,” said Thomas Gasque, a fan from South Carolina.
Zach Young, also from South Carolina figured he would drop “a grand” before heading home.
And John Power added in hotels, restaurants, bars, and shopping. “For the entire event? Maybe three grand,” he said.
That’s what tourism officials like to hear.
10investigates has challenged what appear to be inflated, often over-optimistic financial figures used to attract big sporting events.
But tourism officials with Visit Tampa Bay defend their figures, citing the exposure and other intangible benefits like TV exposure - beyond hotel nights, restaurants.
“The times that Tampa Bay will be mentioned,” said Visit Tampa Bay’s CEO Santiago Corrada, “I don't know who put a price on that. But that's great free publicity. Public relations and marketing.”
Word of mouth might help too. Despite cooler weather on New Year’s Day, many who’d been in town for several days leading up to the Outback Bowl saw temperatures in the 70’s and clear skies.
“I mean, Tampa is great. It can be as cold as it can be and it's fine,” said Power. “Great time here. Always come back here. Had a good time.”
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