Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Gator Teams Big Draw on TV, in Stands

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Gator Teams Big Draw on TV, in Stands

Article excerpt

Byline: Garry Smits, Times-Union sports writer

The Toyota Gator Bowl's choice of opponent for North Carolina State seemed to be a contrast between Notre Dame and high TV ratings on NBC, or West Virginia and its horde of fans descending on the First Coast.

The Gator Bowl opted for Notre Dame, and NBC officials believe ratings will be strong for the Jan. 1 game at Alltel Stadium. But N.C. State is more than making up for the loss of West Virginia's fans and their tendency to arrive early, stay late and spend money in between.

"We're coming, and there will be a lot of us," said N.C. State ticket manager Rob Wade.

Wolfpack fans snapped up the school's initial allotment of 12,500 tickets within three days of the team's invitation to the Gator Bowl Nov. 19. The university requested 5,000 more and has sold those as well.

Yesterday morning, Wade asked the Gator Bowl Association for another block of 5,000 tickets.

"I don't know if we can get all of those," he said. "But we're trying."

Thanks to N.C. State, and the 12,500 tickets Notre Dame has guaranteed, tickets sold to the Gator Bowl passed 60,000 yesterday -- 12,000 short of the sellout Gator Bowl Association president Rick Catlett predicted by Christmas Day.

"The best advice for area fans is to get their tickets soon," Catlett said. "If the schools need any more tickets, we're going to do our best to provide them. Obviously, that comes from the pool of tickets available to the public."

Every major downtown and beaches hotel reports strong room bookings for the days prior to the Gator Bowl, and most already are projecting that rooms will be sold out.

"It's looking very good," said George Fetherston, general manager of the Sawgrass Marriott. "We will be the hotel for Notre Dame's team and official party, but we're also getting a number of reservations by N.C. State people. I think that either choice the Gator Bowl made, Notre Dame or West Virginia, would have filled the stadium and the city."

The flood of interest from N.C. State fans and the national attention on any game involving Notre Dame should boost the economic impact of the Gator Bowl on the First Coast. …

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