Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Merchants Expect Title Game to Bring in Big Money

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Merchants Expect Title Game to Bring in Big Money

Article excerpt

NEW ORLEANS | Charlie Johnson stood in a lot at the corner of Canal and Tchoupitoulas Streets near the edge of the French Quarter on Thursday, supervising workers as they changed out Sugar Bowl merchandise in favor of Alabama and LSU goods.

With the last of the Michigan and Virginia Tech fans leaving, Johnson is getting ready for the wave of fans who are beginning to roll into town for Monday's Bowl Championship Series National Championship Game.

While pockets of crimson-clad Alabama fans and LSU fans decked in purple and gold can already be seen wandering around, the invasion starts in earnest today. You can almost set your watch by it.

"People will start checking in after 3 o'clock (today) from what the hotels are telling us," said Johnson, a merchant from Atlanta who has rented seven locations around the city to peddle fan ware.

Johnson needs a big weekend at the cash register. Michigan and Virginia Tech fans who came for Tuesday's Sugar Bowl didn't live up to his expectations.

"We didn't move nearly as much as we wanted for the Sugar Bowl with the economy what it is," he said. "It was lackluster for such a great game.

"I think (Alabama-LSU) is going to be the game of the century. They'll be here for the game day in numbers. There will be tens of thousands here this weekend for the party that don't even have tickets."

That's the way the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau figures it, too. Every seat in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome has been sold, but the crowd will be larger than the 76,000-plus who have tickets for the game.

"We know that many fans don't have tickets but travel to the city to be close to the action," said Jennifer Day-Sully, director of communications for the visitors bureau. "We estimate roughly 100,000 people in town for the game."

Alabama-LSU isn't the only game in town. The BCS title game comes on the heels of the Sugar Bowl, and the New Orleans Saints host the Detroit Lions on Saturday night in a National Football League playoff game. Day-Sully said the economic impact of the BCS game alone is $200 million.

"This is huge for the city," she said.

"With all three games taken into account, we'll bring in over $400 million and priceless (public relations) and media coverage. …

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