Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jacksonville on Right ACC Road; Organizers Gunning for Another Sellout to Ensure Future Big Games

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jacksonville on Right ACC Road; Organizers Gunning for Another Sellout to Ensure Future Big Games

Article excerpt

Byline: GARRY SMITS

How big a hit was the Atlantic Coast Conference football championship game in its inaugural season?

Virginia Tech linebacker Aaron Rouse had his own take recently at the ACC preseason football meetings at the Sawgrass Marriott.

"It felt like the Super Bowl of college football," said Rouse, whose Hokies lost to Florida State 27-22 in December at Alltel Stadium.

The atmosphere of that night in Jacksonville -- and the crowd of 72,749 -- apparently made ACC commissioner John Swofford comfortable enough last week to say that a repeat performance by the city and the Gator Bowl Association would be enough for the league to exercise a two-year option on returning the game to Jacksonville in 2008 and 2009.

The ACC isn't even requiring the game to be sold out for it to return to Jacksonville. However, Gator Bowl Association president Rick Catlett said he's gunning for a sellout, not only to ensure the game returns for two more years and not only to ensure the game stays in Jacksonville beyond that point. He wants success in the ACC championship to keep Jacksonville in the consciousness of college football's power structure for opportunities in the future, such as Bowl Championship Series games or as a key site in a playoff system.

"We're thinking beyond this year and two years down the road," he said Tuesday. "Selling this game out every year and having it be a tremendous experience for the league, the players and football fans in this area will keep proving that Jacksonville is a championship city and keep the door for other college football championships."

Tickets for the ACC championship (1 p.m., Dec. 2, ABC) went on public sale Tuesday. Catlett said more than 42,000 tickets have already been sold or guaranteed through team and conference allotments and renewals, leaving about 35,000 remaining.

Club seats are sold out and about 8,000 lower-bowl seats (at $80) remain. Upper-bowl seats are $60. Catlett said last year's game brought between 25,000 and 30,000 visitors to the area, at an economic impact of $27 million to $30 million. …

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