Tampa is a Gulf Coast Bay city in the U.S. state of Florida. It serves as the county seat for Hillsborough County. Tampa is located on the west coast of Florida. The population of Tampa in 2000 was 303,447. According to the 2009 estimates, the city's population had grown to 343,890, making it the 54th largest city in the United States. The current location of Tampa was once inhabited by various indigenous cultures, most recently the Tocobaga. It was spotted by Spanish explorers in the early 16th century, but there were no permanent American or European settlements in the area until 1824, when the US Army established a frontier outpost called Fort Brooke at the site of today's Tampa Convention Center. The village of Tampa began as a small group of pioneers who settled near the fort for protection from the Seminole population in the area.