“It is absolutely great,” said Chaparral Suites Resort general manager Tom Silverman of the requests for reservations pouring into his Scottsdale hotel since Sunday evening when the line-up for the college bowl season was finalized.
By noon Monday, the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort on the Gila River Indian Community had booked $10,000 in new business from football fans.
Despite the fact that the two most prestigious of three Valley match-ups are scheduled to be played in the West Valley, East Valley hotels are scoring big with the teams, the fans, the bands and other accompanying groups, and the corporate VIPs, many of whom come for the golf and the get-togethers as much as for the main event.
The national championship game landed in the Valley this inaugural season. The Ohio State Buckeyes will take on the University of Florida Gators Jan. 8 in University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale — like a grand finale to the Fiesta Bowl and Insight Bowl.
The three gridiron clashes spread over 11 days beginning Dec. 29 are expected to attract droves of big-spending visitors to the Valley during the otherwise slow stretch between Christmas and the winter high season events.
The game-goers will spend $315 million on hotels, rental cars, restaurants, entertainment and souvenir shopping, according to research by Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business.
Fiesta Bowl spokesman Shawn Schoeffl er thinks that estimate is low.
“It’s a big number, but we think it will be much higher,” Schoeffler said. “For 11 days, we’ll be the center of the college football universe. It will be like nothing the Valley has ever seen before.”
Three of the six teams invited to the big games are from the wintery north and the other three are from Southern locales fanatically devoted to football. The Bowl Championship Series title game and the Fiesta Bowl already sold out their 73,000 tickets each, Schoeffler said. And the 56,000 tickets to the Insight Bowl, the only match-up to be played in the East Valley, are selling well, he said.
Participating teams get to buy and distribute the biggest chunk of the seats. The Buckeyes, veterans of several past bowl trips to the Valley, are holding lotteries to dole out seats to fans. The Gators’ phone lines were so jammed, hopeful ticket buyers found busy circuits most of Monday.
The BCS championship — for the first time a separate game — is a draw for corporate bigwigs almost like the Super Bowl, said Steve Eberhart, general manager of the Buttes Marriott Resort in Tempe. The Buttes rooms are sold out for several days surrounding the game and have been for long before the match-up was even determined, Eberhart said. Eberhart is also hosting the Minnesota team, which plays Texas Tech in the Insight Bowl Dec. 29 at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, so his hotel will be busy during both of those games. He’s had fewer inquires for Fiesta Bowl rooms, so far.
The Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort is filling up fast despite a room rate of $650 per night, prepaid and with a two-night minimum stay, said spokeswoman Kristin Jarnagin. The hotel already had to turn away one large group because it didn’t have enough rooms left to sell, she said.
The Fiesta Bowl is gaining lots of special attention this year, Schoeffler said. It’s almost unheard of for a team like Boise State University from a smaller conference to get an invitation to a BCS bowl. The Boise State Broncos will meet the Oklahoma Sooners in the Fiesta Bowl Jan. 1.“But they are one of only two undefeated teams in the nation, and it’s such a compelling story,” Schoeffler said. “We’ve heard the entire state of Idaho is coming.”
By Monday afternoon, Global Travel, the university’s official travel package provider, had more than 10,000 queries, and nearly all of the would-be travelers already had their tickets in hand, Global president Kevin Loveless said.
By late Monday, Oklahoma’s allotment of tickets was dwindling, and was expected to sell out before dawn, said Jared Thompson, Sooner spokesman.
“They came in Sunday night and started selling, and it looks like there will be very little left by morning,” Thompson said Monday.
Loveless said he plans to put most of the Boise State fans up in Scottsdale hotels.“Everybody is excited about where this is,” Loveless said. “Old Town Scottsdale will be a busy place, and they will spend New Years Eve at the Tempe Block Party. The Block Party is a big hit.”
The Broncos will stay at the Scottsdale Plaza Resort from Dec. 26 until Jan. 2, and the hotel will have to quickly change banners and beds because the Florida Gators arrive that same day, said Josee Lafleche, hotel spokeswoman. The teams will fill up everything from guest rooms to meeting rooms, restaurants to lounges.
“For two weeks we’ll be 100 percent football focused,” she said.The 651-room Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Resort, also will host a Fiesta Bowl and BCS championship team. There’s still some space available, except during the BCS championship, when the Ohio State team, coaches and alumni will take over the whole hotel, said Jennifer Franklin, resort spokeswoman.
Since Ohio State has been a frequent participant in the Fiesta Bowl in the past, alumni groups are coming to the Valley en masse for the BCS championship, spreading pockets of former graduates in hotels throughout the East Valley.
Silverman has a group coming. He said the longtime Valley visitors are not forgoing Scottsdale for the West Valley just because the game is in Glendale rather than Tempe. “It doesn’t matter where the game is played, they want to be in Scottsdale,” he said.
Franklin, who said the Fairmont also is packed solid for the BCS championship, said the move to a West Valley stadium has not been a deterrent, even for the veterans.“We’ve had no comments about that,“ she said. “Ohio State fans have been here before, and they know with the Loop 101 it is not a difficult journey.”