Newport says rah-rah to football

Step aside, sailing aficionados. The football fans are coming to Newport Beach.

Restaurant and hotel managers throughout the city are joining in preparation for the 2014 Bowl Championship Series game Jan. 6. Although the game will be played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, the players, bands, media and alumni associations will spend their nights in Newport Beach.

With the teams will come a whole host of supporters, creating what city organizers believe will be the largest event cohort that Newport Beach has ever entertained.

The economic impact may total $6 million to $7 million, according to a calculator developed by the Destination Marketing Assn. International.

The idea behind hosting BCS championship groups here began in 2010, the first year that both the BCS Rose Bowl game and the rotating BCS championship game were played at the Rose Bowl.

It's part of an effort to separate the Rose Bowl game — which takes place Jan. 1 — and championship game experiences, said Kevin Ash, chief administrative officer of the Rose Bowl game.

Many, but not all, of the groups participating in the championship game stayed in Newport Beach in 2010.

The event organizers liked having participants in each of the games loosely organized in distinct areas.

"What we did was we created two different areas where people could come early if they wanted to. They'd feel unique to that particular game," Ash said. "People want to have a good experience, a good bowl week experience."

And so they plan to duplicate the separation this year, with Rose Bowl players staying in Los Angeles.

Guests in Newport Beach will realize when they arrive that the city has "rolled out the red carpet" for them, said Amanda Kliem, a national sales manager at Visit Newport Beach, the city's tourism bureau.

Kliem, a devoted Michigan State football fan, led the effort to bring BCS championship players, bands and fans to Newport Beach.

"The BCS requires, just like we provide, lots of beds," she said, explaining the benefits of housing everyone in one city — especially a city like Newport Beach.

Newport is more than a comfy place to sleep, and Kliem cannot wait to show off what she describes as the "pristine coastline" and "aspirational lifestyle" that make the area unique. She has no doubt that area will live up to the image acquired from television shows about Orange County.

"The direct experience is better than any other kind of marketing," Kliem said.

Five Newport Beach hotels, and a sixth in Costa Mesa, have set aside rooms for various groups involved in the championship. The two teams, two bands, two alumni associations and media will all have designated space for sleep.

"It's a great piece of business because it's right at the beginning of January," said Dieter Hissin, the general manager at the Balboa Bay Resort, which like the Island Hotel in Newport Center has blocked about 100 rooms for the event.

Those staying at the Island Hotel will have access to the hotel's car service, said media director Julie Reynolds. A shopping experience at Fashion Island is also in the works.

Staffs of restaurants citywide have begun brainstorming special offerings that will be advertised through a mobile app, said Thomas Giulioni, a restaurant association board member and the executive director of sales at Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort & Marina.

These will include frequent visitor rewards and extended happy hours at certain restaurants.

"We basically put our best businesses together so that we could look unified as far as the offerings and the amenities," Giulioni said. "It's all for one."

Select local establishments will host events for members like the annual "beef bowl," which Giolioni described as "probably the most obscene consumption of beef by human beings," and a mother's brunch for players and their moms.

For some guests, high-end fashion shows and a catered beachfront luncheon may also be offered, Kliem said. The stars of "Real Housewives of Orange County" may make an appearance during the week too.

Much of the branding and offerings will, of course, depend on the winning teams. As the football season gets underway, Kliem, for one, will be watching with bated breath, both for her team of choice and for the preparation to come.

"Once the teams are known, we can pull the trigger," she said.

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