Florence, AL (Northland's NewsCenter) - As the UMD Bulldogs football team prepares for its biggest game of the season, a small city in northern Alabama is making preparations as well.
The town of Florence, which, for a quarter century, has been the home of the most important game in all of Division Two football.
Florence, Alabama is about half the size of Duluth - only about 38,000 people live here, but it is part of a much larger area known as the Shoals.
"We're known as the Shoals area because of the Tennessee River,” said Steve Holt, the president of the Shoals Chamber of Commerce. “Most people know us for being the original headquarters of the Tennessee Valley Authority. We're the home of W.C. Handy and the home of Hellen Keller."
It's also the home of the University of North Alabama, a small Division II school, and that just adds to the football fever in the area.
"It is a big football area. The University of North Alabama, our team, has done really well,” said Debbie Wilson, the director of the Florence Tourism Center. “It's been a while since they've been in the actual title game, but we always have that hope, so football is really big here.”
People in the community say, every year, the game brings a big boost to the local economy.
"The value to us is a million dollar day. We don't even count the publicity we get through ESPN or others,” said Holt.
"Our feeling is that they're going to be very busy,” said Pamela Graves, the marketing sales director for Holiday Inn. "People are going to be going into stores and trying to find out what else Florence has to offer."
One thing's for sure, Florence is a football town, and everybody in this community is committed to making this a positive experience for the teams involved.
"We want to give these Division II teams an experience comparable to that of a Division I school during this NCAA National Championship. It's a true playoff, so the best of the best are here,” Holt said.
UMD has earned that title - best of the best - as the Bulldogs are settling in for another weekend here in Florence, hopefully capping it off with another national championship.
After arriving late Wednesday night, the Bulldogs met with members of the media Thursday morning and held their first practice in Florence this afternoon.
Zach Schneider is with the Bulldogs in Alabama and will file reports through Saturday.