Earlier Starting Time Turns the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl into a Family Event
By David Zaslawsky
Photography by Robert Fouts
The second annual Raycom Media Camellia Bowl will closely resemble last year’s inaugural event except for one noticeable difference.
That’s the four-hour earlier starting time – 4:30 p.m. – and that is a crucial difference. Last year’s game between Bowling Green State University and The University of South Alabama started at 8:30 p.m. and ended almost at midnight.
“It was too late for a family event,” said Johnny Williams, the bowl game’s executive director. “We think this becomes more of a family opportunity for a Saturday afternoon outing – tailgate, go to the game and you’ll be back home by 8 o’clock.”
The reason for the earlier start time was the success of the inaugural game, according to Williams. With 20,256 tickets sold the Camellia Bowl outdrew 17 other bowl games based on attendance vs. capacity. The game was at 81 percent of Cramton Bowl’s 25,000-seat capacity.
“Our game looked great on TV,” Williams said. “We had a full house, especially on the side away from the press box, and that had a significant impact on how the game was viewed nationally, according to ESPN. They gave us a much more conducive environment now and we think we can have bigger and better crowds in the years to come.
This year’ game – which pits teams from the Mid-American Conference and the Sun Belt Conference – is Saturday, Dec. 19, and will be televised by ESPN.
Williams was beaming about selling nearly 13,000 tickets locally. “We’ve got a good base to draw from,” he said. “You go to a lot of communities and the game wouldn’t get noticed. Montgomery was the perfect-size market for this football game and our fan base and our community responded.”
This year, he hopes to increase attendance with a direct mailing to all Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce members and is heavily promoting the Corporate Tailgate Village at Fanfest. There were 18 companies that paid $1,250 or $2,500 or $4,500 for corporate tailgate packages that include tickets, parking passes, tents, tables, folding chairs, coolers, cups, plates, napkins and dinnerware. Catering is available, but not included.
Now after last year, Williams also has word-of-mouth to help promote sales. “We are encouraging companies to buy them (corporate tailgate packages) and they could have their Christmas office party there.”
There is a new $7,500 private field suite available this year, but only three tents are left at the south end zone. The cost includes 24 tickets, 12 parking passes, a 3-foot-by-9-foot television, a foursome in the annual golf tournament and four tickets to the Alabama football legends lunch. Catering and beverage options are not included. “It’s like having your own miniature suite,” Williams said. “It’s self-contained.”
The ESPN Zone – $150 per person – will again be at the Multiplex at Cramton Bowl and the Wind Creek Hospitality Field Suite will be back at $100 a ticket.
If fans purchase their tickets by Dec. 1, they can join the Legacy Club. There is no fee and it enables members to buy the same seats each year or to request new seats. There are no advance costs as club members pay for their seats each year.
"We may not be the largest bowl and we may not be at the beach, but what we do have in our community is the ability to be friendly and more hospitable than anybody in the world,” Williams said. “We’re going to make them (teams and officials) feel comfortable. We’re going to entertain them for those four days and build relationships. We’re going to make this as nice a bowl as they’ll ever experience.”