NEW ORLEANS -- The answering machine at the Superdome management office has a simple message: "Thanks for not calling about Sugar Bowl tickets."
Everyone who has a connection to the Jan. 4 game is being inundated with requests for tickets.
"Obviously, solving the problem of world hunger would be a little easier than trying to get enough tickets," LSU athletic director Skip Bertman said.
BCS No. 2 LSU (12-1) will play BCS No. 1 Oklahoma (12-1) in the Bowl Championship Series title game. The winner may earn only half the national title, since Southern California is ranked No. 1 in The Associated Press poll and probably would finish on top if it beats Michigan Wolverines in the Rose Bowl.
But that hasn't dampened the demand for tickets.
"It started before the teams for the game were announced," Sugar Bowl executive director Paul Hoolahan said. "Once the teams were announced, it just went crazy."
The Sugar Bowl office phones ring constantly. Requests also keep the fax machine humming. Hoolahan stopped giving out his cell phone number months ago, but his home and office machines are loaded with ticket seekers.
Tickets for the game never went on sale to the general public.
Some fans, who took advantage of the Sugar Bowl's offer to buy packages for two or more games, were able to purchase tickets. The other tickets were gobbled up by corporate sponsors, ABC, which will televise the game, government officials, and others with ties to the bowl.
Each of the 144 Louisiana legislators has the option to buy at least six tickets. The Sugar Bowl sells four tickets to each lawmaker at the face value of $150 each. Plus, LSU sets aside two tickets for each lawmaker to buy at the same price, said Dan Radakovich, senior associate athletic director.
Each team gets 16,000 tickets, 1,000 more than in past years.
Those are sold to players, coaches, university staff and administrators, season ticket holders and students.
Anyone else hoping to attend the game is scrambling to pull strings, find an acquaintance that can help, or paying big money for tickets.
"I've had calls from people I haven't heard from in 15 years," said Bill Curl, dome public relations director.
Tickets were advertised on the Internet. At the Web Site for encortickets.com tickets, which all have a face value of $150, ranged in price from $1,750 for sideline seats to $650 in the end zone. At ticketsolutions.com they were $1,775 to $665.
Two field-level tickets located on approximately the 35-yard-line were sold Monday evening for $3,250 through the eBay.com site. There were four pages of active auctions on eBay on Tuesday for Sugar Bowl tickets, with the lowest-priced listing being a $500 pair for an undisclosed seat location. The highest price was $5,100.
Ticket brokers who package game-tickets with hotel rooms were still selling packages on Tuesday.
At World Pro Travel Inc., a basic package included two game tickets and a double hotel room for three nights for $950 per person.
"That's a downtown hotel and the tickets for $1,900," said company owner Vince Gibson. "It's a lot, but it's a lot less than some people are asking just for the tickets."
For the Sugar Bowl, the Superdome will be in the same configuration used at the Super Bowl. That will mean 72,000 seats. Hoolahan expects over 78,000 people to actually be in the Dome for the game.
The Sugar Bowl and the company that manages the Superdome and the Arena next door are discussing the possibility of using the Arena for additional seating and showing the game on the big screens there.
There is also another possibility for many people.
"I have friends coming in from Oklahoma and we're going to spend the weekend on Bourbon Street," said Anne Taylor, of New Orleans. "We'll just find a friendly bar at game time and watch it there. There are always other fans there. That's the next best thing to being at the game."
Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press
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