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WVU fans start planning trip to Pinstripe Bowl

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Mountaineer football fans are in a New York state of mind.

The day after West Virginia University accepted an invitation to its seventh-straight bowl game - the Dec. 29 New Era Pinstripe Bowl against Syracuse University - fans began the annual process of figuring out how to get there.

Yeager Airport officials said they were inundated with calls Monday from fans asking about flights to New York City.

"Our phones rang off the hook today with people calling for information," said Yeager Airport marketing director Brian Belcher.

American Airlines subsidiary American Eagle runs a daily non-stop flight between Yeager and New York's LaGuardia Airport.

That flight is now booked solid between Christmas and game day.

"It's already booked full through the 29th," Belcher said. "People were really buying it today."

The daily American Eagle flights seat only 44 people. Belcher said he and airport director Rick Atkinson were working with American representatives to get either extra flights or larger planes to accommodate more passengers.

While the American Eagle flight is the only direct one to New York City from Yeager, Belcher said seats remain on flights with stops in major airline hubs.

He said the remaining flight options with New York connections include: Delta Airlines to Detroit; United Airlines to Washington, D.C.'s Dulles Airport; and U.S. Airways to National Airport, also in Washington, D.C.

"Usually, if you get to one of those hubs, you can catch a connecting flight to one of the three New York-area airports," Belcher said.

Fans who don't want to fly can choose to drive.

Yankee Stadium is a 543-mile trek from Charleston that would take eight hours and 20 minutes in good traffic conditions, according to Google Maps.

The WVU Alumni Association and Mountaineer Athletic Club are promoting two travel packages for fans interested in going to the game. One offers group travel, and the other is for fans booking travel on their own.

The first, and more expensive, is called the "Pinstripe '12-Millenium" package. It is for fans arranging their own travel and includes a two-night stay at the Millennium Broadway Times Square hotel on Friday, Dec. 28, and Saturday, Dec. 29.

Prices start at $819 per person, and that does not include the price of a game ticket.

The second package is for a one-night stay at the Holiday Inn in Secaucus, N.J., for the Friday night before the game.

That package includes bus transportation from Morgantown; prices start at $349 per person.

The buses will leave Morgantown at 8 a.m. Dec. 28 and take fans from the New Jersey hotel to the stadium on game day.

Buses will head back to Morgantown immediately following the game. Box lunches will be provided on both the departing and return trips.

WVU and Syracuse were each given allotments of 5,000 tickets to sell to fans through university ticket offices.

Matt Wells, WVU's assistant athletic director for marketing and sales, said as of about 4 p.m. Monday the university had sold about 1,000 of those tickets.

By comparison, WVU sold about 2,000 tickets the first day after the school was tapped for the 2012 Orange Bowl against Clemson University.

Wells said WVU officials would use an additional 1,000 to 1,500 tickets for players' and coaches' family members, guests and band members.

That means WVU had gone through half of its 5,000-ticket allotment by the close of business Monday.

One of the benefits of joining the Big 12 Conference this year is that even if WVU can't sell all of the remaining tickets, it won't have to absorb the cost. Instead, the conference will pick up that tab.

That's good news for the university since unsold tickets became a major issue during the Orange Bowl.

Despite the win, the university ended up losing over $217,000 on the game because it sold only 7,763 of its 17,500-ticket allotment.

 Total cost of the unsold tickets: $1.2 million. That wiped out all of the financial gains the university earned by winning the BCS bowl game.

Most of WVU's 5,000 allotted tickets this time are in sections behind the Mountaineers' bench along the east sideline. They include Yankee Stadium sections 105 to 111 in the lower level, and 206 to 210, 307 and 308 in the upper levels.

Fans can purchase tickets in other sections directly from the Pinstripe Bowl's website, www.pinstripebowl.com. But Wells said WVU fans should buy tickets through the WVU ticket office if possible.

"We encourage Mountaineer fans to buy directly from the Mountaineer Ticket Office to support the program," he said. "There's a couple of benefits to fans buying directly from us."

First, it ensures fans get to sit with other WVU fans.

Second, stronger university sales help bolster the school's image when marketing to potential bowl games in the future.

Schools that earn a reputation of having a good traveling fan base get a leg up in negotiations with bowl selection committees.

Kickoff for the New Era Pinstripe Bowl is set for 3:15 p.m. Dec. 29. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN.

Contact writer Jared Hunt at jared.hunt@dailymail.com or 304-348-5148.

 


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