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Rose Bowl game to yield an extra economic boost

The matchup of Texas Christian University and the University of Wisconsin will bring an army of free-spending out-of-towners to Southern California.

December 10, 2010|By Hugo Martín, Los Angeles Times

When the Rose Parade winds down and the football game begins at the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day, no Pac-10 team will be on the field. But don't cry for Pasadena, the host city of the historic game.

Pasadena and all of Southern California are certain to reap big economic benefits again, experts said, as two teams from Middle America draw an army of free-spending fans to the region.

"With such events, the farther they travel the better," said Michael Harker, a senior partner with Enigma Research Corp., a Tampa, Fla., firm that estimates spending from sporting events and festivals. "If the fans only have to travel a short distance, they tend to stay one night or make it a day trip."

Because of complex Bowl Championship Series rules, no Pac-10 team was picked to play in the Rose Bowl this time. Instead, the game pits the Horned Frogs of Texas Christian University against the Badgers of the University of Wisconsin.

And their fans are already energized. "We are so excited to come out to Pasadena," said TCU fan Jerry Gulley, who waited less than a day after his team was selected to the Rose Bowl to book a trip to Southern California from his home in Gordon, Texas. "There is so much to see in the Los Angeles area."

Tourism boosters in Southern California are also pleased about this matchup because they say the nearly 100,000 football fans converging for the game will have extra incentives to stay several days and spend generously.

TCU has never played in the bowl game in Pasadena, and its ardent fans are sure to stay in Southern California to soak up the atmosphere, tourism officials say. And the Wisconsin faithful, boosters say, will be in no hurry to leave Southern California's warm weather to return to below-freezing temperatures in the Midwest.

Paula Bonner, president of the Wisconsin Alumni Assn., said she couldn't wait to join fellow Badger fans in warm Pasadena.

"It's about 15 degrees today with snow on the ground," Bonner said from Madison, the state capital and home of the University of Wisconsin.

Already at least eight of Pasadena's 16 largest hotels, including the Hilton, the Westin and the Sheraton, are sold out for the nights before and after the name.

TCU, based in Fort Worth, won a spot in the Rose Bowl with a 12-0 record. Ranked No. 3 in the BCS, TCU will take on the No. 5-ranked Wisconsin (11-1).

Spending by fans who attend the Rose Bowl game and the Rose Parade typically generates an economic benefit of more than $178 million to the region, according to studies. But tourism officials say that figure fluctuates depending on the teams that participate in the game.

Paul Little, president of the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce, said a Pac-10 team in the matchup would have been nice. But he added: "In measuring dollars in the local business community, having two teams from out of town is a plus."

Mark Liberman, president of LA Inc., the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau, expects the combination of a first-time bowl team and an opponent from a cold-weather region should result in big shot in the arm for the region's struggling tourism industry.

"The Los Angeles hospitality community is quite excited about the 97th Rose Bowl game," he said.

Liberman added that Texas football fans were typically very faithful to their teams, and the region's warm weather would draw legions of fans from Madison, where the average temperature on New Year's Day is 28 degrees, compared with 68 in Los Angeles.

The effects of the spending should be felt throughout the region. The players, marching bands, football officials and most of the visiting media plan to stay in hotels in downtown Los Angeles. Several alumni groups have booked rooms in Beverly Hills.

Anthony Travel, a Dallas travel agency that specializes in alumni football trips, has already booked nearly 2,000 TCU fans to fly to Southern California and stay for three or four nights for the Rose Bowl game.

The package deals, ranging in price from $565 for children to $1,900 for adults, include airfare, exclusive parties, tickets to the Tournament of Roses Parade and a pep rally, according to the travel agency.

The 1,001 rooms at the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotel complex in downtown Los Angeles are already sold out for Dec. 30 through Jan. 1.

"To have that kind of activity in downtown Los Angeles is very exciting," said Brigid Finley, a spokeswoman for the hotel complex that opened in February.

The 570-room Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, which is hosting alumni groups from both colleges, will also be sold out for the New Year's weekend, hotel spokeswoman Lynda Simonetti said.

"We expect our guests to take plenty of time to explore the riches of the region," she said.

Still, the economic benefit provided by the 2011 Rose Bowl game probably won't match this year, when for the first time under a new rotating collegiate bowl system the Rose Bowl hosted two major bowl games in a week — the Rose Bowl game Jan. 1 and the BCS title matchup Jan. 7.

The BCS game alone generated $84 million in spending, according to a study released this week by Enigma Research Corp.

The research did not calculate the effect of the Rose Bowl, but a 2008 study by the USC Sports Business Institute projected that the game generated $22 million in direct spending in Pasadena and nearly $12 million in indirect spending.

Bonner, the Wisconsin alumni president, promises that Badger fans — decked out in the school colors of cardinal and white — will do their part to boost the region's tourism industry. "I think it will be a sea of red in Los Angeles," she said.

hugo.martin@latimes.com

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