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ACC Championship game expected to draw 60,000 uptown

Florida State and Georgia Tech face off Saturday in the ACC Championship college football game uptown, and organizers are expecting the game to draw 60,000 visitors or more.

An ACC official said about 60,000 tickets had been distributed as of Thursday. Bank of America Stadium, where the game will be played, holds about 73,000.

Some of those tickets were given away: As in years past, the ACC offered Carolina Panthers permanent seat license holders a number of free tickets. A Panthers representative declined to say how many tickets the team’s PSL holders received.

The ACC title game will be in Charlotte through 2019, and the event is considered a big boost to uptown businesses at what would normally be a slow time of year.

Sid Smith, executive director of the Charlotte Area Hotel Association, said he’s hearing good things from his group’s members about bookings in advance of the game.

“Hotels that I have talked to just anecdotally have said things are looking good,” Smith said. “We’re very happy with the room bookings and blockings.”

Smith said championship and bowl games can be unpredictable because it’s not always clear who will play in the game far in advance. With Florida State enjoying its second straight undefeated season, Seminoles fans have known for several weeks the team would be in Saturday’s game. But Georgia Tech fans found out just two weeks ago, meaning many have to make a faster decision about whether to travel.

“Georgia Tech has been scrambling since last week,” Smith said.

Fans of both teams also have to take into account how many times they want to travel.

With a victory Saturday night, Florida State is almost certain to end up in the college football championship playoffs and could play two more road games.

Georgia Tech is likely to be in the Orange Bowl in Miami or another bowl in a few weeks. For Yellow Jackets fans, that means a game in Charlotte might not be their highest priority – although Atlanta media reports this week said Georgia Tech had sold out its 5,500-ticket allotment for Saturday’s game.

The ACC receives $250,000 a year to hold its game in Charlotte, a subsidy paid by the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority. The CRVA is funded by its own revenues, as well as money from hospitality taxes on hotel and motel rooms, and prepared food and beverages. Mecklenburg County also provides a $250,000 annual subsidy for the game.

The Belk Bowl, to be played Dec. 30, receives free use of Bank of America Stadium as part of a deal worked out between the city and the Panthers in which the team received $87.5 million in public money to fund stadium renovations. The Belk Bowl matchup, which will feature an SEC team vs. an ACC team, will be announced Sunday. A popular matchup with local fan bases, such as the University of South Carolina vs. N.C. State University, could draw a big crowd. Notre Dame is also a possibility for the Belk Bowl because of the school’s football tie-in to the ACC.

Attendance at the ACC Championship game has fluctuated since it moved to Charlotte in 2010. The first two games were sellouts, featuring Florida State vs. Virginia Tech and Clemson vs. Virginia Tech. In 2012, attendance fell off to 48,000 when Georgia Tech played Florida State in the rain. Georgia Tech had a 6-6 record and was only in the game because Miami and North Carolina were on probation and ineligible.

Last year, a crowd of more than 67,000 came to Bank of America Stadium to watch Florida State play Duke. The Seminoles won, 45-7, and went on to win the national championship.

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