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Belk Bowl organizers anticipate big turnout for Dec. 29 game

Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente enters the field before the first half of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game against Clemson, on Dec. 3, 2016, in Orlando, Fla.
Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente enters the field before the first half of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game against Clemson, on Dec. 3, 2016, in Orlando, Fla. AP

The Belk Bowl Dec. 29 in Charlotte will be the first time the University of Arkansas plays Virginia Tech in the two schools’ 120-plus year football history, and the game’s organizers say they expect a big turnout for the matchup.

Virginia Tech is the home team for the 15th Belk Bowl, according to the Charlotte Sports Foundation, which hosts the game. Individual tickets for the game are on sale now through Ticketmaster and the participating schools.

The Belk Bowl is one of the remaining major sporting events left in North Carolina after several others – including the NBA’s All-Star Game, the ACC title football game and the NCAA basketball tournament games – pulled out of the state over opposition to House Bill 2, the controversial measure that limits legal protections for LGBT individuals.

Last year’s Belk Bowl had a total economic impact of $16.3 million, making it one of Charlotte’s biggest annual events, according to the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority.

The Belk Bowl’s attendance was 40,723 last year, when Mississippi State pounded N.C. State 51-28. Mississippi State’s then-quarterback Dak Prescott threw for a bowl-record 380 yards and four touchdown passes, earning him the bowl’s MVP recognition.

About 32.3 percent of visitors last year lived within 25 miles of Charlotte, the CRVA said; 64.3 percent traveled more than 50 miles and 3.4 percent lived within 26-50 miles. This equates to 26,185 total visitors, or 17,511 overnight visitors. Last year’s game, the CRVA said, required 13,718 hotel rooms for guests in Charlotte.

Kickoff for the game at Bank of America Stadium is set for 5:30 p.m., and the game will be televised by ESPN.

“The Razorbacks and Hokies have each enjoyed a great season, and they should have an exciting, competitive game on the field. Both teams have tremendous, enthusiastic fans that should make the 2016 Belk Bowl very memorable,” said Will Webb, the bowl’s executive director.

Earlier this fall, bowl organizers announced that country artist Tim McGraw will perform for the bowl’s fan fest before kickoff at BB&T Ballpark, home of the Charlotte Knights.

The lowest price for the game on Ticketmaster Monday midday was $51.28. The average ticket price for the Dec. 29 matchup is $155.76, according to TicketIQ, a group that tracks 90 percent of the nation’s secondary ticket market. The cheapest ticket listed is $41, TicketIQ said, and the most expensive ticket listed is $410.

“This is probably going to be one of the best matchups we’ve ever seen here. We anticipate lots of fans in the stands, as well as a high-scoring game,” said Miller Yoho, director of communications for the Charlotte Sports Foundation.

Arkansas finished the season with a 7-5 overall record, and was one of two teams this season to score more than 16 points against No. 1 ranked Alabama. Virginia Tech finished the season with a 9-4 overall record, most recently falling to No. 3 Clemson 42-35 in the ACC title game, which was moved from Charlotte to Orlando over HB2.

Raycom Sports started the college football bowl game in Charlotte in 2002. It was originally certified by the NCAA as the Queen City Bowl, although it never went by that name. It was called the Continental Tire Bowl from 2002-2004, and the Meineke Car Care Bowl from 2005-2010.

Katherine Peralta: 704-358-5079, @katieperalta

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