Three decades ago a friend of mine took his girlfriend on a scenic tour of what you would call the “Rust Belt” – cities that were once powerhouse industrial towns in the east-central part of the country.
Only their tour of Cleveland, Detroit, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia was not about steel mills or any other industry. It was a tour of the old, classic baseball stadiums, all charted out so they would see a game in as many stadiums as they could fit into a two-week schedule.
Three decades later, I am still jealous of that tour. But nowadays, big business sports franchises and the travel industry have acknowledged their symbiotic relationship, making it easier and easier to do what my friend did 30 years ago.
There are always quick, one-day options. To see the New York Yankees, for example, you can hop on a bus, as far away as Rochester and Buffalo, there and back. After the game, fans re-board the bus and sleep through the driving again until they get back home.
Big Business for Sports Fans
Name a big league sport and there is bound to be a travel agency ready to serve your needs. Customized tours are aplenty for professional football, basketball, lacrosse, hockey, baseball and soccer. There are some that cater to action on the collegiate level as well.
My favorite, at the moment, is XL Sports World, simply because their home page on the Internet says “In 2001, two friends came up with the idea of creating the World’s greatest soccer specific tour company.” That sounds about right. A travel company that specializes in sports tours should be started with two friends and a handshake. That’s how it should be.
Of course, the mutual benefits are obvious. Franchises sell more tickets, beer, soda, pretzels, hot dogs and souvenirs. That’s the name of the game. But teams can also expand their fan base and, by extension, extend television broadcasts accordingly if they cater to fans who live far away. That’s what makes big business.
And that translates into more advertising revenue.
Travel in style
Travel companies, of course, have a ready-made, fun product that is flexible and creative. How about a tour of Sun Belt football teams? What about creating a tour for college football fans, who are also golfers? That can be done.
Tours combine the thrill of the game at hand and the sweet luxuries of travel. Stay in top-tier hotels, eat at five-star restaurants, and see the game from front row seats. Does that sound too good to be true? Maybe, but it’s just simple capitalism at work. Tour companies buy tickets and rent hotel rooms in bulk, so they often pass their savings down to customers in the form of discounts.
What about a time share? If you enjoy cooking your own meals or just want to settle in to the host city for an extended vacation, look for a timeshare option, which could have even cheaper per-night rates for your family.
The San Diego Chargers have already got this figured out, teaming up with Welk Timeshares in San Diego to create a program designed to accommodate fans who don’t want to sit around waiting for the game. “Golf, theater, dining, shopping, tennis swimming and an on-site spa,” are ready for visitors who know that San Diego has a variety of fun activities to do outside of football.
Of course, the intensity picks up when a team heads into a playoff or championship series. Sports Traveler, which has football on its mind, can put together travel packages for regular season games and playoffs, all the way to the Super Bowl, “We have hard-to-get Super Bowl Tickets and Packaged Tours,” says their website.
Benefit From Travel’s Big Business
One of the great benefits of a package tour might not even be the money saved. It’s all the time saved that you might have put in calling hotels, planning subway or taxi routes to the stadium, and finding a good place to eat, your energy sapped and your vocal cords could be out of commission just after a game. Not with a sports tour package.
Sign up for a package and let the travel agent take care of the details. That takes a load off your mind. Also, a Welk Timeshare arrangement, some people say, offers more independence on choices of where to eat and what to do while waiting for the game.
By the way my friend, who toured all the baseball stadiums circa 1985, lost his girlfriend after that trip. She became his wife.