BCS championship marks end of an era for Southern California

Southern California is used to the annual New Year’s invasion of football fans for the Rose Bowl.

But this year, the region -- and its economy -- got a rare double dip.

As soon as supporters of Stanford and Michigan State went home after the Rose Bowl, Auburn and Florida State fans began rolling in for Monday’s Bowl Championship Series title game at the same stadium.

The college colors -- burnt orange and navy blue for Auburn and garnet and gold for Florida State -- were a common sight in recent days from the streets of Old Pasadena to the Balboa Island Ferry. And to the joy of local merchants, many fans came with their wallets wide open.

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On Colorado Boulevard Monday, longtime Florida State fan Wayne Wincey, 68, was lugging a bag filled with Seminole T-shirts he had purchased.

“I was commissioned to buy lots of bowl gear,” he said.

“We had to get one of every size -- a double XL, triple XL, XL and a medium,” his wife Ann added.

The game marks the end of an era. The BCS will be replaced next year by a college football playoff system. The national championship is not expected to return to the Rose Bowl for several years. The Rose Bowl game will continue, but the “double dip” that Pasadena has enjoyed twice in the last four years will stop for now.

Experts said the BCS championship game is a financial boon to the region, but not as big as the Rose Bowl.

The 2013 Rose Bowl and Rose Parade generated about $306 million in economic activity in Los Angeles County, according to the research firm Micronomics. The Los Angeles Sports & Entertainment Commission ordered the study, released last October. For comparison, the Super Bowl is estimated to have an impact of upward of $400 million.

But the BCS Championship game doesn’t bring the same punch, said Micronomics managing director Roy Weinstein. The Rose Parade alone attracts about 440,000 visitors from outside L.A. County, including bands who perform in the parade. With the Christmas holidays, many of those people can stay for the week.

“People come sooner and come longer for the Rose Bowl,” Weinstein said Monday from his seat at the championship game. “The Tournament of Roses is an international event, whereas the BCS Championship is a shorter-lived event with little participation outside of fans of the two schools directly competing.”

The BCS Championship, on a Monday when most people are returning to work after holidays, brings visitors to town for only the weekend before. That amounts to about $60 million of added spending in the region, Weinstein estimated.

In the run-up to the game, the Florida State and Auburn teams, coaches, alumni associations and bands spread themselves across Newport-Mesa at the Island Hotel, Balboa Bay Resort, Hyatt Regency, Radisson Hotel and Westin South Coast Plaza. The media are housed at the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel & Spa.

“We have been eagerly anticipating their arrival,” said Amanda Kliem, a national sales manager who spearheaded the effort for Visit Newport Beach, which works to book group travel to the city. “We literally have rolled out the red carpet for them.”

Florida State practiced at Jack R. Hammett Sports Complex in Costa Mesa, while Auburn worked out at UC Irvine. Newport Beach venues planned special events like brunch for the players' families, dinners for coaching staffs, and a traditional Beef Bowl with Lawry's.

In Corona del Mar, each team dined on 650 pounds of prime rib while VIPs enjoyed a waterfront luncheon on a luxury yacht. “That's a very Newport Beach-type experience,” Kliem said.

With the teams come the fans, who were pampered with discounts on services such as luxury chauffeurs, spa treatments and private gondola cruises made available through a mobile app.

Want a complimentary pair of socks for the big day? Spend $200 at St. Croix Shop. How about $100 off a new sweater? Spend $300 at Halston Heritage. Even the free jewelry travel bag at Roberto Coin had a connection: Make a purchase and mention the BCS.

David Beek, whose family operates a long-running ferry to Balboa Island, said the extra tourists in the area, coupled with “summer-esque” weather, have spiked his sales.

“You start seeing the hats, the shirts, the colors,” he said. “If you're in Newport, you can't miss out on an opportunity to see Balboa Island and the ferry.”


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Times staff writers Paresh Dave and Jill Cowan contributed to this report.


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