Iowa Hawkeyes Tyler Linderbaum boards a Boeing 777 plane bound for Orland at the East Iowa Airport in southwest Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Sunday, December 26, 2021. The Hawkeyes face off against Kentucky at the VRBO Citrus Bowl 2022 on January 1, 2022 (Jim Slosiarek / The Gazette)
There were about 3,700 tickets still available Tuesday for Saturday’s Vrbo Citrus Bowl featuring the No.15 Iowa Hawkeyes against the No.22 Kentucky Wildcats.
So it won’t be a full house, but it could be a good thing with the rise of a new COVID-19 variant.
Duane Jasper, CEO of Cedar Rapids Unlimited Leaders / Destinations Travel Iowa’s fan travel package coordinating agency, said the number of air and ground packages purchased for the Citrus Bowl in Orlando is comparable to past bowl games in Florida.
“It’s very similar in numbers to the last time we went to the Outback Bowl in Tampa,” he said. “We consider this a great victory, given COVID. One thing that works in our favor is that Hawk fans missed out on a year last year because of COVID, so there is a little pent-up demand. “
Travel Leaders / Destinations Unlimited has 240 people on a charter flight scheduled to depart Wednesday at 8:00 am from the Eastern Iowa Airport. Another 150 to 160 fans have purchased 4- or 3-day land packages, Jasper said. The agency has helped two dozen to three dozen people book commercial flights to Orlando, he added.
Allegiant, which offers three flights a week from Cedar Rapids to the Orlando area, had no seats available on flights to the area before the bowl game, according to the airline website.
The Camping World Stadium, with a capacity of around 65,000 seats, had around 3,700 tickets available Tuesday morning, according to the Ticketmaster website, which allows users to see the free spaces in each section.
The stadium is divided into Big Ten and SEC seats. Some sections, including those in the top corners, are marked as “no seats available” which may mean those sections are closed rather than sold out.
Cases of COVID-19 are on the rise in the United States, with the highly transmissible variant Omicron becoming the predominant strain in many states.
Florida reported 31,758 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, Orlando Sentinel reported. This broke the previous record of 27,802 cases set on August 26 when Delta was the main strain in the United States, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The push pushed Universal Orlando to reinstate a mask mandate and contributed to the cancellation of hundreds of flights at the Orlando airport.
Travel Leaders / Destinations Unlimited has warned bowl-related Hawkeye fans that they should expect mask requirements, temperature checks or proof of vaccination at many Orlando locations.
“If the customer’s test is positive for COVID and a quarantine is required, all costs, expenses or monetary loss would be the responsibility of the customer,” the travel agency said in its COVID-19 policies.
If the boules game is canceled or a traveler is unable to attend, most or all of the purchase will not be refunded unless someone has purchased travel insurance, noted the agency. The agency has only had two cancellations as of Tuesday, Jasper said.
So far, four bowl games have been canceled due to COVID-19, Sporting News reported. These are the Hawaii Bowl, featuring Hawaii versus Memphis, on December 24; Military Bowl, with Boston College versus East Carolina, December 27; Fenway Bowl, with Virginia v SMU, December 29; and Arizona Bowl, with Boise State versus Central Michigan, Friday.
Texas A&M had to withdraw from the Gator Bowl, scheduled for Friday in Jacksonville, Florida, because too many players got COVID-19 for the school to field a team, ESPN reported.
“There is a bit of nervousness as to whether this will cancel out at the last minute,” Jasper said of the trip to the Citrus Bowl. “Once the plane takes off tomorrow, we’ll feel a lot better. “
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