Sun Bowl's success comes down to "heads in beds"

Sun Bowl's success comes down to ...

EL PASO, Texas - The 83rd annual Hyundai Sun Bowl matchup between Stanford and North Carolina is still 23 days away, but many out-of-town fans have already begun to make arrangements for the big game.

"I know that as soon as we made the announcement the phones haven't stopped ringing since," Sun Bowl Executive Director Bernie Olivas said. "So I hope we're going to get there and hopefully sell it out again."

The success of the bowl game is usually measured in "heads in beds," the number of tourists who travel to El Paso and spend at least one night in our city.

ABC-7 looked into the forecast for Sun Bowl travel this year, and while bowl officials are extremely excited about this year's on-the-field matchup, one of the biggest reasons for the annual game is to promote the Southwest and draw tourists to the area.

El Paso Hotel-Motel Association President William Geraldez told ABC-7 that judging by the number of inquiries at his hotel, he expects a lot of out-of-town fans to make the trip to El Paso for the Sun Bowl on Dec. 30.

"As long as great teams come and play and the city opens their doors for these teams, it just pays multiple. If we can book 80 plus percent, into 70 percent of those hotels, that would be awesome. It would be a great finish for the year," Geraldez said.

There are about 9,000 hotel rooms in El Paso, Geraldez added.

Both schools have already set up Bowl Central web sites for their fans, providing them with all the information they need for travel, tickets and places to visit while in the Borderland.

Flights on Southwest from California range from less $300 to more than $500. North Carolina fans have to come farther and Southwest flights from Raleigh/Durham currently start at more than $1,000.

Stanford fans will be returning to El Paso for the first time since a 2009 Sun Bowl game against Oklahoma, which sold out before game day, a first in Sun Bowl History. North Carolina fans haven't ventured to El Paso since a 1994 game against Texas.

Stanford averaged 44,142 fans a game this season. North Carolina, considered more of a basketball school, still averaged 50,300, despite playing one game amid hurricane warnings.

"We've got a good national brand, alumni across the country," said Kevin Best, media relations director for UNC. "I think you'll have some attend from North Carolina. I don't know how many thousands. We haven't been in a while, which is good. And we have a good opponent."

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