Tickets lure in a big crowd

COSTA MESA — Orange Coast College students Zach Mikol and Brittaney Beckworth lined up at 1 a.m. for Thursday's opening of the new Microsoft store at South Coast Plaza.

The pair were second and third in a line that stretched more than 2,500 shoppers deep.

They waited for hours in the morning cold for Microsoft's second Orange County store to open, so they could grab one of the 950 pairs of free tickets to a Selena Gomez concert, which the store handed out on a first-come, first-served basis.

Gomez, a Disney star, is to perform an exclusive concert 2 p.m. Saturday in the South Coast Plaza parking lot at Sunflower Avenue and Bear Street, shopping center officials said.

Mikol and Beckworth were also among the store's first 150 visitors who will have a chance to meet the singer after the concert and get her autograph.

Beckworth said the long wait for the chance to meet a teen idol, who became famous after starring on the Disney Channel's "Wizards of Waverly Place," was well worth it.

"She's a role model for girls because of how she presents herself," said Beckworth, 19, of Fountain Valley, who admitted being more interested in the tickets than in the new store.

"You can tell by just how she presents herself," she said. "She doesn't dress scandalously, she's always tasteful, and in her music videos she's never doing anything promiscuous."

South Coast's parking lot was fairly quiet until 3 a.m., which was when the crowd started building up outside the shopping center doors, said Mikol, 18, of Costa Mesa.

"There were a couple of false starts," Mikol said. "We got kicked out a couple of times."

Mikol said they saw people running and a few of them slip and fall in the rush into the center.

"It's her fan base," Mikol said. "It's not that much about Microsoft; it's her fans. They're all here for Selena."

Sure enough, as the countdown commenced and brightly outfitted Microsoft team members with microphones tried to lead the crowd in a countdown from 7 — as in Windows 7 — and a cheer for South Coast Plaza, few people in the line that snaked around the carousel and back to Bloomingdale's joined in.

Michael Burger, 49, of Irvine, was the first to enter the store through a tunnel of hand-slapping and cheering team members.

"I'm mostly here for the tickets," Burger said. "They're for my daughter, but I'm a fan of Microsoft also, so it's a win for both of us."

The tickets will be a surprise for his 12-year-old Emily.

It wasn't the first time Burger said he has stood in line for his children so they wouldn't miss school.

All Burger wanted from his children in return was "a big smile and a hug."

Inside the store, Microsoft Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner greeted customers and showed off the store's selection of PCs running Windows software, Xbox consoles and the Xbox Kinect, Windows phones and a variety of software and accessories.

"Our customer response here for the store has been incredible," Turner said. "We're opening these stores because the customers have asked us to."

The 4,900 square-foot Costa Mesa store represents Microsoft's third location in California and the eighth in the U.S.

The store's grand opening also saw Microsoft award software grants totaling $1 million to three Orange County organizations.

One of the recipients, Girls Inc., a Costa Mesa nonprofit, will use the grant to upgrade its computer room, said Susan Wampler, president-elect of the board of directors.

"We are just delighted that they are giving us the opportunity to upgrade a lot of our systems," Wampler said. "Frankly, over the years, you have to spend money on things like that, and we would like to have that money to spend on the girls."

Other organizations to share in the grant were the Irvine nonprofit Project Tomorrow and the Capistrano Unified School District.

The store's grand opening was to continue into Thursday evening with a special appearance by Lakers player Lamar Odom and his wife, Khloé Kardashian.

From 6 to 8 p.m., the couple was scheduled to play Kinect with store visitors on a first-come, first-served basis, spokeswoman Lindsey Kociela said.

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