CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Thousands of people packed uptown Charlotte for Saturday's ACC championship game as No. 1 Clemson faced off against No. 7 Miami at Bank of America Stadium.
Fans were revved up for the big game.
Tryon Street was packed, and security increased with more police officers patrolling the area to account for all the extra people in town this weekend.
The ACC Championship returned to Charlotte after being moved to Orlando last year.
Clemson, a 38-3 winner, will likely secure one of the four spots in the College Football Playoff.
For the first time ever, ESPN’s "College Gameday" broadcasted live from Romare Bearden Park Saturday morning. Channel 9 spotted crews preparing for the broadcast Friday morning.
Fans of both Miami and Clemson have been roaming Charlotte and the stadium, taking in the city before the big game.
According to the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, more than 75,000 people came to the city for the ACC championship in 2015.
The championship game returns to Charlotte after the ACC pulled all championship games out of North Carolina citing House Bill 2, also known as the "Bathroom Bill."
Last year's ACC Championship game was moved to Orlando, Florida.
"You know the nation's eyes are on this game,” said Tom Murray with the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority.
Business owners in uptown said they are relieved the big game is back in Charlotte, and said they felt the loss last year.
"We were kind of banking on that day to help us out the rest of the season,” said George Photopoulous, owner of French Quarters. “We lost out on that that was a big day for us."
Now, it’s all hands are on deck for a busy weekend
"It triples, if not quadruples,” Photopoulous said.
This weekend, hotels in Charlotte are booked.
The Charlotte Hospitality and Tourism Alliance said there are only a few rooms available in Rock Hill, Mooresville and surrounding areas.
As fans flooded every inch of uptown, business owners said they were looking forward to their winnings at the end of the night.
"Usually, we have a pretty decent crowd Saturday, but we're treating this like the Democratic Convention or the Panthers playoff game,” Photopoulous said.
Fans and Charlotte leaders were eager for the return of the ACC title game.
"It's huge. We'll be the epicenter of really the world,” said Will Webb, of the Charlotte Sports Foundation. “People will be watching this football game live from Bank of America Stadium."
"The ACC championship has become part of our culture and part of the things that expect to happen in Charlotte,” Murray said.
Just the people in uptown for the game alone will be a boost to the economy. Hotel occupancy has reached 85.5 percent.
In 2015, more than $32 million was brought in.
“Our whole family is flying in from all over, Boynton Beach, from a lot of different places in Florida, so we're all meeting here tonight,” Miami fan Chris LeMay said.
Everyone Channel 9 spoke with said they were happy to see the game return to Charlotte.
"I was excited to get it back in Charlotte,” Clemson fan Straight Gaston said. “I love to see it here every year. This is a great central venue for the whole ACC."
“I’m glad it’s back,” Miami fan Jerry Cinnirella said. “My best friend flew up yesterday. We got tickets to the game. We’re going to be able to enjoy our team beat Clemson.”
The event was sold out, so officials warned ticket holders to get to the stadium early and be careful of counterfeit tickets being sold on the street.
"I bet it will be 70 percent Clemson in the stadium, so it’s just like a home game, and playing at eight o’clock at night on national television, doesn't get any better than that,” Gaston said.
“Just seeing everybody coming down and people spending time, and all festive, should be a lot of fun,” Miami fan Keith Gabriel said. “Go Miami."
No. 1 Clemson, No. 7 Miami vie for ACC championship
No. 7 Miami (10-1, 7-1, ACC, CFP No. 7) vs. No. 1 Clemson (11-1, 7-1, ACC, CFP No. 1), ACC Championship, Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, 8 p.m. ET (ABC)
Series record: Miami leads 6-4.
WHAT'S AT STAKE
Win and you're in. The ACC champion looks as if it has a no-doubt-about-it spot in the College Football Playoff. The loser will most likely get the ACC's regular spot in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 30.
Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant vs. Miami defense. Bryant has capably succeeded Tigers national championship passer Deshaun Watson to get the team a step away from its third straight playoff appearance. But the Hurricanes are second in the ACC with 39 sacks and take pride in harassing quarterbacks.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Miami: Quarterback Malik Rosier. Rosier has thrown for 2,807 yards and 25 touchdowns after taking over from three-year starter, Brad Kaaya. His ability to move the Hurricanes will be tested by Clemson's defense.
Clemson: Running back Travis Etienne. Etienne has broken out of a four-player backfield to lead the Tigers with 720 yards and 12 touchdowns. His combination of strength and speed makes him dangerous to bring down.
FACTS & FIGURES
Miami leads the country in turnover margin at plus-17, forcing 29 turnovers. ... Clemson has 23 players who took part in both the 2015 and 2016 ACC title games. .... Clemson has six overtime wins in its history, two of them coming at Miami in 2004 and 2009. ... Clemson has played in four ACC championship games, winning its past three, starting in 2011. This is Miami's first ACC title game. ... Miami won nine Big East Conference championships from 1991-2003. It joined the ACC in 2004. ... Clemson has posted at least 11 wins in four of the past five seasons.
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