Clemson, West Virginia travel to Orange Bowl includes one-day trips
By Rachel Tannenbaum
With Clemson and West Virginia set to play in Miami in the Discover Orange Bowl Jan. 4, the two schools are offering travel packages through Premiere Global Sports to bring and house students, staff and alumni for the game.
The Orange Bowl football game, officially the Discover Orange Bowl since 2010, pits the Atlantic Coast Conference Champion, Clemson, against the Bowl Champion Series at-large pick, West Virginia.
Both university teams were picked on Dec. 4, which gives the Orange Bowl Committee a month to transform Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, hotels, press conference sites and events to match the teams' colors, and gives both schools a month to wrap up travel plans.
When it comes to travel, said Larry Wahl, Orange Bowl Committee vice president of communications and community outreach since 2007, it's left to the teams and universities to offer packages for fans.
Since both teams are from the Southeast, it makes travel more convenient — so convenient that both schools are offering one-day air packages that will have fans flying into Miami the morning of the game and flying home that same night.
Clemson is offering air-land packages averaging $1,600, land-only packages averaging $450 and same-day air packages for $725.
West Virginia is also offering air-land packages averaging $1,750, land-only packages averaging $900 and same-day air packages for $775.
"All our fans and alumni do great in travel," said Tara Curtis, director of communications for the West Virginia University alumni association. "A lot of fans travel for our games and a lot will want to come to Miami to see the sights. We have checked out various events in Miami and we are finalizing plans now."
Premiere Global Sports, the company in charge of travel for the Orange Bowl, the Fiesta Bowl, the Rose Bowl, the Sugar Bowl and the BCS Championship Game, has brought over 17,000 fans to sports and entertainment events around the world, its website says.
Each year the company offers travel and hospitality programs to over 100 collegiate and professional events.
As for the number of packages sold by both schools, Brian Cockerham, president of Premiere Global Sports-College Division, said the company judges the success of package sales by the number of tickets a school sells to the game.
"If we can travel 10% of the people who bought tickets through the school, we consider the sales part of the tour to be a success," Mr. Cockerham said. "In both West Virginia University and Clemson's case, we expect to achieve that 10% or get very close."
The game is expensive and may be hard for fans to attend considering costs and distance, he said, but he's pleased with the reception of the fans of both schools.
The Clemson football team uses Premiere Global Sports for bowl games and away games, said Randy Boatwright, Clemson director of business development and facilities, and the university is offering fans three to four hotels to choose from, including hotels in South Beach, Miami Lakes and downtown Miami.
"We are selling packages from the Clemson website, with prices ranging from high end to an accommodating price," Mr. Boatwright said. "It would be nice to have everyone under one roof, but there isn't a hotel big enough."
Although both universities are getting ready to send fans to South Florida, Mr. Wahl said Orange Bowl Committee members have been going to the universities to help with ticket sales and press conferences.
Committee members arrived at the schools Dec. 4, Mr. Wahl said, with the goal of helping promote the schools, Orange Bowl events and Miami and South Florida.
"We work simultaneous, the teams and us," Mr. Wahl said. "We help each other's markets."
Although it's left to the universities to offer travel packages for fans, Mr. Wahl said the committee negotiates deals with hotels, bus services and caterers for the teams, with bookings done in advanced.
"Imagine showing up at a hotel in Miami with an entire football team, including coaches and the band the week of the game," Mr. Wahl said. "We try and find them a great location."
West Virginia is staying at the Diplomat in Hollywood and Clemson at the Fontainebleau in Miami Beach.
"It's cold in West Virginia and a lot of people are interested in traveling somewhere warm, especially for a BSC bowl," Ms. Curtis said.
A large number of alumni live south of West Virginia, in North Carolina, Georgia and Florida, and Ms. Curtis said she anticipates a great showing from them.
"Alumni and fans that live north of West Virginia are experiencing cold weather, which makes traveling to Miami enticing," she said.
For the players, Mr. Wahl said, there's a lot to experience in Miami and a lot of temptation. Curfews are often set and get stricter as the week goes on.
"There are about 20 players on the West Virginia team that are from Florida and about 12 from South Florida," he said. "Players often want to meet up with friends."
Practice fields are all lined up, with Clemson practicing at the Nova Southeastern University soccer field and West Virginia at the Barry University soccer field. They'll practice every day and try to keep practices like any normal week, Mr. Wahl said.
"They will have meetings maybe in the morning and in the afternoon to review game plans," he said. "Oftentimes teams rent video equipment to watch the plays."
The Orange Bowl game is one of five BSC bowl games, including the annual BSC Championship Game. The others are the Sugar Bowl, Sun Bowl and Rose Bowl, with the championship game rotating every year.
Both West Virginia and Clemson are looking forward to a large game day turnout.
"I think West Virginia alumni and fans will be pleased," Ms. Curtis said. "We want them to enjoy the Miami community, the sites, restaurants and shopping."
She said that she expects a good turnout because fans follow the team wherever it goes.
"We are very proud of our loyal alumni and fan base," she said. "They support the team and coaches no matter where they go, and we hope to turn Miami into a city of blue and gold."
It's been 30 years since Clemson has been in the Orange Bowl, Mr. Boatwright said, and the school is confident in getting fans to attend.
"It is almost like an anniversary," he said. "We celebrate the 1981 Orange Bowl Game every year at a home game and we are excited to do it this year at the Orange Bowl."
Mr. Boatwright said Clemson is excited for Miami and its nice, warm weather.
"People might make this bowl game a vacation right after the holidays and New Year," he said.
The only downside for fans traveling with young families is that public schools resume the week of the game, although Clemson doesn't start its classes until the following week, Mr. Boatwright said.
"We expect to see a lot of students," he said, "and we expect them to come Monday and to stay until Thursday."
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