One month ago the Florida Gators and Georgetown Hoyas announced that their college basketball programs will begin the 2012 season by participating in the Navy/Marine Corps Classic on Nov. 9 off the coast of Jacksonville, FL.
Set to compete onboard a U.S. Naval carrier on the water outside an active military base, Florida and Georgetown will go head-to-head one of three currently scheduled games set to be played on naval ships in honor of Veterans Day.
And while fans are undoubtedly excited to see their favorite team competing on a large stage in such a high-profile game, attending the contest in person may not necessarily be within the realm of fiscal possibility for many Gators.
Interviewed live Tuesday by host Frank Frangie on Sports Radio 1010XL in Jacksonville, executive director of sports & entertainment for the City of Jacksonville Alan Verlander provided some insight on how fans may be able to acquire passes for the game.
According to Verlander, who said an official press release with exact details is scheduled for Thursday, the cheapest way to attend the two-day event is for $1,000 with packages set to be sold for as much as $50,000. However, that cost will cover a lot more than just the ability to watch Florida and Georgetown square off live on the carrier.
“It’s not just $1,000 for one basketball game,” he cautioned. “It’s $1,000 for a whole two-day event.”
The City of Jacksonville is technically not allowed to sell tickets “to an event on a navy base or any military base that is active,” so instead they partnered with the Jacksonville Jaguars to create “sponsorship packages” for a two-day event.
Those packages will include a V.I.P. party for the Jaguars game on Thursday, passes to the basketball game, parking and the ability to attend a pre-game fan festival on the military base (including a concert from a “big-name entertainer”) prior to Friday’s contest.
“We’re creating a fan fest on the [military] base before the basketball game,” Verlander explained. “Envision this: You’ve got an aircraft carrier on the coast there…and then right adjacent to that you have a huge fan festival, and we’re trying to bring in a big-name entertainer. We’re in talks right now with a big-name entertainer that everybody’s heard of.”
He also noted that a portion of the money paid for each sponsorship package will go to purchasing tickets so members of the military can attend the football game on Thursday and the press release notes that “proceeds from the sponsorship packages will go to support local military and veterans efforts.”
“The aircraft carrier that they’re bringing is going to have 3,000 servicemen and women that will go to the Jaguar game the night before and then obviously go to the basketball game,” Verlander told OGGOA on Wednesday. “Part of each package is helping send those servicemen and women to the [football] game.”
Only 8,000 passes will be disseminated for the basketball game with 3,000 going to members of the military. Of the remaining 5,000, Verlander said 4,400 should be available to the public with UF and GU each receiving a small allotment of their own.
“The actual attendance on the deck will be 8,000. That’s as many as we can seat. We fully anticipate it selling out very quickly,” he said. “It’s going to be a hard ticket.”
Verlander also told OGGOA that he and the universities both hope that students will be able to attend the game though it is currently unknown how many tickets will be available. Season ticket holders will have to spring for the sponsorship packages.
“We’re looking at potentially doing some kind of thing for the students – students at both Georgetown and Florida – but it would be on a very limited basis. We’re still looking at that right now as far as students go,” he said. “If you’re a Gator season ticket holder, really the only way to [go to this game] is to buy one of these packages. It’s not because we’re trying to be exclusive or anything like that; it’s a major event to put on with major expenses and it’s a one-of-a-kind of event that we’ve got to be able to pay for and partner with the military and do it the right way.”
Read the rest of this story on the Navy/Marine Corps Classic…after the break!
The Secretary of the Navy is the only confirmed special guest as of press time though Verlander said that many more are likely to attend the game when all is said and done.
“We’re fully prepaed that a lot of major [political] brass and other major celebrities will be there,” he said. “It’s so up in the air because they’re not going to give their schedules out to the public because of the security measures. It will probably be a game-time decision announcing which [public officials] will attend.”
The City of Jacksonville is also currently in talks about acquiring a title sponsor for the event for a cool $1 million, according to Verlander, who credited the Gators and head coach Billy Donovan with helping get the entire thing off the ground.
“My first phone call [when I was asked about putting the event together] was to Jeremy [Foley] at Florida and [senior associated athletics director] Mike Hill,” Verlander said on the radio. “I said, ‘What could we do?’ After about a week they moved some games around and made some things happen and it was super.
“Then from there we had to find an opponent. I give Coach Donovan a lot of credit because a lot of coaches – Florida’s schedule is tough if you’ve seen it – a lot of coaches would say, ‘Man, I don’t want to take on another tough team.’ To Billy’s credit, he said, ‘If we’re going to do this, let’s do it right and let’s do it with the best opponent we can go get.’”
Tip-off for the game is likely to be set for around 9 p.m. Sponsorship packages will go on sale Monday, July 16 at 9 a.m. To purchase your package of choice or for more information about the event, call the City of Jacksonville’s Sports and Entertainment Office at (904) 630-3690 or visit JaxSport.net.
Gator Growl, the world’s largest student-run pep rally and the culmination of UF’s homecoming weekend, is scheduled for 7 p.m. that day and OGGOA learned Wednesday that the organization plans to come up with a way for fans in Gainesville, FL to attend the event and watch the game. The Gators football team will take on Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday in their homecoming game.
OGGOA will update this story when additional information is officially released.