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IOWA CITY — After an abrupt end to last football season — when the Hawkeyes’ Music City Bowl appearance was canceled due to COVID-19 — the University of Iowa is bowling again this year, with thousands of black-and-gold faithful amped to join in resuming the postseason tradition.
For the Jan. 1 Vrbo Citrus Bowl in Orlando — the first-ever match-up between the No. 15-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes and the No. 22 University of Kentucky Wildcats — UI Athletics has received an allotment of 9,000 tickets, plus 500 for the marching band.
The Cedar Rapids-based Travel Leaders/Destinations Unlimited agency coordinating air and ground travel packages for Hawkeye fans told The Gazette it sold out its only 240-seat charter flight to the game in 24 hours. Additionally, the travel agency has booked commercial flights and sold “land packages” — involving hotel accommodations, ground transportation, game tickets and other hospitality services — for fans who might have missed the charter chance, including about two dozen Tuesday.
In total, the agency has coordinated Hawkeye bowl travel for about 350 people, and Chief Executive Officer Duane Jasper said he anticipates that tally will grow to about 400 this week.
“People who want to go will have figured out a way to get there through us or through other sources, in most cases, by the end of this week,” Jasper said.
In announcing the Citrus Bowl invitation, UI Athletics promised priority to season ticket holders and I-Club members who submit requests for bowl game tickets before noon Friday. Any tickets remaining after the priority process will be made available for the public Dec. 14, according to UI Athletics.
Fans also can visit the bowl website to snag tickets in Camping World Stadium, which holds about 65,000 and has designated one sideline for the Big Ten and the opposite for the Southeastern Conference, home to Kentucky.
Ticketmaster showed more sections with available seats on the Big Ten side than on the SEC side as of Tuesday afternoon.
Although UI Athletics does reserve some of its ticket allotment for student-athlete guests and department staff, most are distributed to fans, according to Deputy Athletics Director Matthew Henderson.
The department hasn’t yet determined the size of its travel party, he said, but noted the team is scheduled to arrive in Orlando on Dec. 26.
And the marching band, which has limited its travel in the pandemic, once again will accompany the team on its Florida excursion.
'Going to both games’
The Hawkeyes will play in Camping World Stadium just days after the Iowa State Cyclones battle No. 19-ranked Clemson Tigers there in the Dec. 29 Cheez-It Bowl.
ISU, like the UI, is distributing its ticket allotment using a priority system for Cyclone Club members, donors and season ticket holders before the overall public.
“We do have some people that are booking hotel rooms and plan on going to both games,” Jasper said, noting his agency is not coordinating Cyclone travel arrangements.
Prices for the Hawkeye and Cyclone packages range from $3,299 for an adult who landed a seat on the chartered flight to the Hawkeye game to $835 per Cyclone fan wanting a three-night land package to the Cheez-It Bowl.
Game tickets still available on Ticketmaster were going for $67 in the upper section of the stadium to $641 on the SEC side near the 50-yard line.
A New York Times tracker characterizes the Orlando area as “high” risk for COVID-19 contraction right now, with an average of 201 cases a day or 14 cases per 100,000 people. At that per capita-level, in Orlando’s Orange County, 1 in 6 have had COVID-19 and 1 in 615 have died.
In Johnson County, home to the Hawkeyes, 1 in 7 have had COVID-19 and 1 in 1,399 have died. But regarding current risk level, Johnson is labeled “extremely high” with 35 cases per 100,000 — more than in Orlando. Story County, home to the Cyclones, also is “extremely high,” with 25 cases per 100,000.
Travel agencies for both the Hawkeyes and Cyclones note that COVID-19 mitigation policies will be in place, including at the stadium — which requires everyone over age 2 to wear a mask except when eating.
Additionally, fans who book a trip to the Hawkeye bowl game through the travel agency must agree to terms acknowledging the risk inherent in traveling during a pandemic.
“Certain destinations and venues may require proof of vaccination,” according to the terms and conditions. “Should the client test positive for COVID and quarantining is required, any costs, expenses or monetary losses would be the responsibility of the client.”
Plus: “In the unlikely event that the bowl game is canceled for any reason or the traveler cannot attend, all or the majority of the purchase will not be refunded, unless covered by a travel insurance policy.”
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