116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
There were about 3,700 tickets still available Tuesday for this Saturday’s Vrbo Citrus Bowl in Orlando featuring the No. 15 Iowa Hawkeyes versus the No. 22 Kentucky Wildcats.
So it won’t be a full house — but that might be a good thing with the surge of a new COVID-19 variant.
Duane Jasper, chief executive officer of the Cedar Rapids-based Travel Leaders/Destinations Unlimited agency coordinating travel packages for Iowa fans, said the number of air and ground packages purchased for Saturday’s Citrus Bowl is on par with past Florida bowl games.
“It’s very similar in numbers to the last time we went to the Outback Bowl in Tampa,” he said. “We consider it to be a big win, given COVID. One thing working in our favor is Hawk fans missed a year last year because of COVID, so there’s a little pent-up demand.”
Travel Leaders/Destinations Unlimited has 240 people on a charter flight scheduled to leave at 8 a.m. Wednesday from The Eastern Iowa Airport. Another 150 to 160 fans purchased four-day or three-day land packages without the transportation, Jasper said. The agency 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, did not have any seats available on flights to the area before the bowl game, according to the airline’s website. Frontier still had flights available to Orlando before the game.
Camping World Stadium, with capacity of about 65,000, had about 3,700 available tickets as of Tuesday morning, according to the Ticketmaster website, which allows users to see open seats. UI Athletics has said it received an allotment of 9,000 tickets, plus 500 for the Hawkeye Marching Band.
The stadium is divided into Big Ten and SEC seating. Some sections, including those in the upper corners, are marked as “no seats available,” which may mean those sections are closed, rather than sold out.
COVID-19 cases are increasing across the United States, with the highly-transmissible omicron variant becoming the predominant strain in many states.
Florida reported 31,758 new COVID-19 cases Friday, the Orlando Sentinel reported. This broke the previous record of 27,802 cases set on Aug. 26 when the delta variant was the major strain in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The surge has caused Universal Orlando to reinstate a mask mandate and contributed to the cancellation of hundreds of flights at the Orlando International Airport.
Travel Leaders/Destinations Unlimited warned bowl-bound Hawkeye fans they should expect mask requirements, temperature checks or proof of vaccination in many Orlando venues after they arrive.
“Should the client test positive for COVID and quarantining is required, any costs, expenses or monetary losses would be the responsibility of the client,” the travel agency said in its policies.
If the bowl game is canceled or a traveler can’t attend, most or all of the purchase will not be refunded unless a person has purchased travel insurance, the agency noted. The agency has had only two cancellations as of Tuesday, Jasper said.
So far, four bowl games have been canceled because of COVID-19, Sporting News reported. They are the last Friday’s Hawaii Bowl, featuring Hawaii vs. Memphis; Monday’s Military Bowl, with Boston College vs. East Carolina; Wednesday’s Fenway Bowl, with Virginia vs. Southern Methodist University; and Friday’s Arizona Bowl, with Boise State vs. Central Michigan.
Texas A&M had to pull out of the Gator Bowl, scheduled for Friday in Jacksonville, Fla., because too many players got COVID-19 for the school to field a team, ESPN reported. That leaves Wake Forest facing a replacement team, Rutgers.
“There’s a little nervousness about what if it cancels at the last minute,” Jasper said of the Citrus Bowl trip. “Once the plane goes up tomorrow, we’ll feel a lot better.”
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