Beavers and turtles will battle in The City today, yet this contest is not for the Discovery Channel but ESPN.
The Oregon State University Beavers will take the field against the University of Maryland Terrapins at AT&T Park in the sixth annual Emerald Bowl, one of the more than 30 college football bowl games taking place during the holiday season.
Thousands of fans sporting Oregon State’s orange and black, or Maryland’s red and yellow, are expected from all over the country to pour into city hotels, restaurants and tourist destinations — the second-largest sporting weekend for The City this year after Major League Baseball’s All-Star week in July.
Last year’s Emerald Bowl, a Florida State victory over UCLA, brought in an additional $18.1 million to local venues as more than 40,000 fought for standing room and 9.5 million watched from home, according to the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The Oregon State and Maryland teams have already been about town, having arrived last weekend and visited The City’s famed Alcatraz Island in between all their practices, team officials said.
“I know they’re enjoying The City,” Shawn Nestor, a Maryland spokesman, said from the sideline of the Terps’ practice at Laney College in Oakland. “I’d bet 95 percent of the team has never been here.”
So far, more than 32,000 tickets have been sold, said Doug Kelly, a spokesman for the bowl game.
“Depending on the weather, our hope is for 25,000 to 30,000 in the park,” Kelly said in an e-mail, referring to the chance of rain today.
For the Emerald Bowl, which is partially sponsored by The Examiner, Oregon State was allotted 11,500 tickets to sell, and Maryland received 10,000. The two schools’ athletic departments have sold 7,200 and 5,200of those, respectively, and they are trying to tap into the thousands of local alumni the schools have in the Bay Area, according to officials from both universities.
There are roughly 5,000 Maryland alumni in the San Francisco and Los Angeles area, and fans have turned out “pretty well,” Nestor said. Former Beavers number more than 5,800 in the Bay Area alone, the second-largest concentration of OSU alumni outside of Oregon, said Jeff Todd, executive director of the university’s alumni association. Seattle has the largest community of Beavers outside Oregon, he added.
Joining out-of-towners for the game, regular attendees to AT&T Park will find a different field configuration. But then again, AT&T Park is not built for conversion the way Monster Park is.
With the end zones in left field and near the first-base dugout, AT&T Park fits 40,184 fans in its football-field configuration, more than 1,000 seats fewer than its regular baseball-field capacity.
Kelly said what outfield seats are lost in the football setup are compensated by additional sideline bleachers put up in right and center fields behind the team bench area.
The bowl game was first played in 2002 after San Francisco Giants and local business officials sought to bring in an event to use the stadium during the 280 days of the year the baseball team did not play there, including a handful of exhibitions.