U plans trips, travel packages for bowl game

The University of Minnesota is organizing trips for the upcoming Gophers bowl game, but history and the economy make the outlook for sales dim. The Gophers accepted a bid on Sunday to play in the Insight Bowl on New YearâÄôs Eve in Tempe, Ariz. , about 1,800 miles from Minneapolis . As a result of the selection, the University athletics department and the Alumni Association are sponsoring the official fan bowl tour, teaming up with local travel agency Creative Charters . The University has been allotted 10,500 tickets for the Insight Bowl, which went on sale at 9 a.m. Monday. If those tickets are not all sold, the University will have to compensate for the rest, athletics communications director Garry Bowman said. In 2006, the University fell far short of selling its allotted tickets, he said. âÄúI think weâÄôre hopeful for a good number this year,âÄù Bowman said. âÄúThe way that the season ended up may dampen things and weâÄôre realistic to the way the economy is going and we are sensitive to those issues.âÄù Creative Charters, based in Lake Elmo, Minn., took about 450 people to the same bowl game in 2006, said Steve Erban , marketing director at the travel agency. They have already received some applications for this yearâÄôs bowl. However, 2008 presents new challenges. âÄúItâÄôs hard with the economy,âÄù Erban said. âÄúWeâÄôre optimistic, but we have no idea.âÄù Athletics director Joel Maturi said the University developed a policy several years ago that deals with group travel for bowl games. The official travel partner can change every year and is dependent on the size of the bowl game, Maturi said. âÄúCreative Charter has been a supporter of Gophers fans for years and do a great job,âÄù Maturi said. The Gold Tour, $1,099 per person, flies to Arizona on Dec. 27 for a five-night stay in downtown Tempe, which includes tour guides and transportation around the city. The Maroon Tour, $899 per person, flies out on Dec. 29 and stays for three nights in a downtown Tempe hotel. Tickets to the game are not included in either package, but cost $55 and season-ticket holders have until Friday to reserve priority seating.