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Score one for economy

Bowl teams, sports journalists and football fans are spending at local hotels and restaurants, offering Newport-Mesa’s economy a welcome shot in the arm, officials say.

January 05, 2010|By Brianna Bailey

When they’ve not been practicing at municipal sports fields in Costa Mesa for the 2010 Bowl Championship Series title game, players from the No. 1-ranked University of Alabama football team have sneaked out to local beaches and munched on In-N-Out Burgers, team officials said Tuesday.

Thousands of sports journalists, college football fans and the University of Alabama team and support staff are staying in Newport Beach and Costa Mesa this week, gearing up for Thursday’s national championship game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

The Crimson Tide’s adversary in the game, the No. 2-ranked University of Texas Longhorns, has been staying in Irvine and practicing at UC Irvine.

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Money that the BCS entourage is spending at local hotels and restaurants will give the economy a much-needed post-Christmas boost, said Gary Sherwin, president of the Newport Beach Conference and Visitor’s bureau.

“It is a phenomenal shot in the arm,” Sherwin said. “January is one of the toughest months for hotel occupancy ... To have people who are going to be coming to town who want to go out, enjoy themselves and spend money is wonderful for business.”

The Alabama football team and its massive support staff has descended on the Westin South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, booking 365 of the hotel’s 392 rooms. About 550 people are traveling with the team this week, said Bill McDonald, director of sports medicine for Alabama, who also acts as the team’s travel coordinator.

The Crimson Tide flew into John Wayne Airport on two chartered airplanes Saturday, and another plane filled with Alabama staff was expected to touch down at JWA Tuesday, McDonald said.

The Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort hosted the Alabama and Texas teams Sunday and Monday night for the Lawry’s Beef Bowl, a more-than-50-year-old Rose Bowl tradition in which players are feted with large quantities of Lawry’s prime rib.

“It’s been great,” McDonald said, noting that he and the team have enjoyed Newport-Mesa’s warm weather and hospitality. “It almost seems like a Super Bowl the way they’ve handled things. Everyone has really been outstanding.”

The Alabama team has been practicing on Costa Mesa’s municipal soccer fields on Fairview Road, and has even gone as far as putting up new, opaque green fencing around the complex to ensure privacy.

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