There could be a purple haze over Tempe this week.
Fans from Manhattan — Manhattan, Kansas, that is — likely will outnumber their rivals from Columbus, Ohio, at Friday's Fiesta Bowl game, officials said.
Most of the purple-wearing Kansas State fans — and their red-and-gray-donned Ohio State counterparts — will arrive today or Wednesday. While Ohio State was chosen for the bowl partly because it has 30,000 alumni living within a day's drive of Tempe, some wonder if Buckeye fans are feeling passe after last year's dramatic double-overtime win in the national championship at Sun Devil Stadium.
"Those that are coming this year are kind of like the Marine Corps — the true, the tested, the proud and the determined," said Ron Hopper, senior vice president of Ohio State's Alumni Association.
While online ticket brokers were hawking tickets for as much as $1,755 each last year, you can still get a ticket to Friday's game for $75. And America West Airlines won't add flights to Port Columbus International Airport for this year's game.
Ohio State University senior Jarrod Weiss said many of his friends wanted to make a trip to Tempe, but are still paying off last year's excursion. "It's hard to go into debt twice," said Weiss, who plans to travel to Arizona this morning. Kansas State fans, however, are ready for their first Bowl Championship Series game, said Jodi McGatlin, director of alumni programs for the Kansas State University Alumni Association.
The school sold out its initial allotment of 15,000 tickets in two days, said Bob Howell, ticket manager for the athletic department. In another two days, the school sold an extra 6,300 tickets. Howell attributed the fervor partly to Kansas State's 35-7 victory over then-top-ranked Oklahoma in the Big XII Championship Game.
"This is a BCS game and it means much more than, say, if we went to possibly the Alamo Bowl," Howell said. "It's one of the top bowls." Ohio State sold 15,000 tickets, not including tickets sold to local fans, said Fiesta Bowl chairman Leon Levitt.
"They played in the national championship last year, and there's always a bit of a letdown with such a degree of success," Levitt said. "But we're thrilled with 15,000 (tickets sold). It only looks like a disappointment because there was such strong interest last year."
Kansas State fans are making their headquarters at the Pointe South Mountain Resort in Ahwatukee Foothills, capped by a Purple Wave Party featuring a barbecue for 2,100 people Friday, said Andre Fournier, director of sales and marketing. Fans started trickling in soon after Christmas and have been "fast and furious" at the resort's water oasis, which is warmed to 84 degrees.
“The rest of us would say, ‘you’re crazy,’ but it doesn't bother them,” Fournier said.