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Sleeping Alabama, Clemson fans expected to crowd Tampa International Airport before their overnight flights home

Alabama coach Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide arrive at Tampa International Airport for Monday's College Football Playoff championship game against Clemson. [JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times]

Alabama coach Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide arrive at Tampa International Airport for Monday's College Football Playoff championship game against Clemson. [JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times]

Fans have been streaming into Tampa Bay from across the country for Monday night's College Football Playoff National Championship game between Alabama and Clemson at Raymond James Stadium — and they are expected to do so right up until kickoff at 8:30 p.m.

But what comes in must go out. So, after all the weekend concerts and festivities are over, and a national champion is declared, Tampa International Airport is preparing for an onslaught of travelers early Tuesday morning.

That means a flood of fans arriving overnight to catch their early-morning flights, including an expected crowd of travelers bypassing an extra night at a hotel to crash in the terminal as they await their flights.

"It's going to be really busy," airport spokeswoman Emily Nipps said.

To accommodate all those fans who might be looking for a cup of coffee or a bite to eat after a tiring day at the stadium, Nipps said airport concessions will be kept open longer and later — and extra staff will be on hand — Monday night into Tuesday morning.

Report: If you have to sleep in an airport, Tampa International isn't a bad place to do it

"We are getting people trickling in over the weekend. We started seeing people (Thursday) and are seeing some (Friday)," Nipps said. "But the biggest day for us is actually going to be Tuesday, as we've got a lot of extra departing flights, so that's when we're bracing for the most people."

While most visitors will be taking commercial flights, Nipps said airport officials are preparing for an increased number of private jets, carrying fans who will arrive in Tampa just hours before the game and likely departing shortly thereafter. It's a factor that Nipps said has prompted the airport to set up a mobile tower station to guide those planes alone.

And as if contending with a large crowd of jubilant and dejected fans isn't enough, weather conditions could hamper efforts to get them back home smoothly.

Some flights were delayed on Friday as a strong storm system moved through the South, and travelers will have to keep a wary eye on the departure times on Tuesday.

"Any time there's a weather event, it will have a dominant impact on local events," Nipps said. "And we have some stormy weather coming in (Friday) and (Saturday), so we're telling people, whether you're here for the game or not, to keep an eye on flights and flight schedules.

"Especially on Tuesday," Nipps said, "but throughout the weekend as well."

Contact Samantha Putterman at sputterman@tampabay.com. Follow @samputterman.

Sleeping Alabama, Clemson fans expected to crowd Tampa International Airport before their overnight flights home 01/06/17 [Last modified: Friday, January 6, 2017 1:55pm]
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