New Orleans expects rush of fans for Sugar Bowl
The Sugar Bowl football classic is capping off the tourism year
for New Orleans and getting 2014 off to a good start, thanks in
part to a matchup between teams with fans known to travel.
Tens of thousands of football fans – and their dollars – will
make their way to the Big Easy for the college football game
between third-ranked Alabama and No. 11 Oklahoma. Fans are expected
to begin arriving this weekend for days of concerts and fanfare
leading up to the Sugar Bowl game Jan. 2 at the Superdome.
”Sugar Bowl is always a big deal for us, but it’s really a big
deal because of the two teams we have this year,” said Kelly
Schulz, spokeswoman for the New Orleans Convention and Visitors
Bureau. ”They both have very large fan bases.”
Jeff Hundley, the Sugar Bowl’s chief operating officer, called
the matchup a home run.
”They both have reputations for (fans) traveling for their
team,” he said.
The first Sugar Bowl was played in 1935, and both teams have
long histories with it – Alabama has been in the game more than any
other team, and Oklahoma more than any non-Southeastern Conference
team. And both play in a similar color scheme, so Bourbon Street
should be a sea of red.
Alabama first played in the Sugar Bowl in 1945, when the Crimson
Tide lost to Duke. The Oklahoma Sooners’ first appearance came in
1949, when the team beat North Carolina.
”These teams both have a history of having fun here, and their
proximity to New Orleans is also going to play a big part in
getting them here,” Hundley said.
Sugar Bowl fanfare will overlap the city’s New Year’s Eve
festivities. On the agenda are days of concerts along bank of the
Mississippi River, games and fireworks displays.
The celebration, which officially begins Dec. 31, is expected to
generate some $150 million for the city, Schulz said.
Schulz said hotels were at more than 90 percent capacity for the
two days leading up to the big game, and Hundley said ticket sales
were on target for a sellout.
There were 75,000 tickets available for the game, and Schulz
said some 100,000 fans were expected to make their way to New
”Some just come to tailgate,” she said.
Game-day events include a ”Fan Jam” outside the Superdome
beginning at 4 p.m. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.
The Sugar Bowl is part of a thriving sports tourism industry in
New Orleans. For 25 years, the Greater New Orleans Sports
Foundation has been in the business of luring multimillion-dollar
events to south Louisiana, among them Super Bowls, Final Fours,
fishing tournaments and even Olympic trials.
Since the foundation’s inception in 1988, it has led successful
bids for three Super Bowls, three men’s college basketball Final
Fours, three women’s Final Fours, three Southeastern Conference
men’s basketball tournaments, four Bassmaster Classic fishing
tournaments and other events.
The events collectively produce an economic benefit of roughly
$2 billion for the city and state.
The city is working to bring the 2018 Super Bowl to New Orleans
in conjunction with the city’s 300th anniversary. There also are
efforts underway to bring back men’s and women’s basketball Final
Fours sometime between 2017 and 2020.