Fans' dream trip turns into nightmare

37 find themselves without tickets with agency unable to deliver

Super Bowl Xxxv

Ravesn Vs. Giants

January 29, 2001|By Tim Craig, Amanda Crawford and Alec MacGillis | Tim Craig, Amanda Crawford and Alec MacGillis,SUN STAFF

TAMPA, Fla. - Super Bowl frenzy turned to angry despair for 37 Ravens fans who were left standing outside Raymond James Stadium yesterday, having been denied the tickets they purchased as part of a $3,500 package sold by a Towson travel agency.

Dozens of other fans who had purchased the same package received their tickets hours before kickoff after a tense standoff with a Tampa agent with whom Towson Travel had contracted to provide the tickets.

"Somebody kill me now, put me out of my misery," said Tim Favazza, 41, of Bel Air after finding himself without a ticket a few hours before game time. "It's like when we woke up and saw the van leaving with the Colts."

Towson Travel co-owner Chip Wanek said last night that he had given the money for the tickets - $1,900 apiece - to Premier Sports Tours. He said the Tampa company told him yesterday that it had paid two brokers for the tickets but that they failed to produce.

"I did everything I was supposed to do, and they told me they would have tickets for them," he said before kickoff. "I can't describe what it's been like. It has been the worst experience of my life."

Premier's Tom Hastings said last night that two previously reliable brokers decided at the last minute to sell reserved tickets to other buyers for more money. Hastings said he spent $240,000 yesterday buying tickets from other brokers for as much as $3,000 apiece to fill the order but came up 37 short.

"Brokers can do what they please. It's very unfortunate this had [to] happen to Towson Travel," Hastings said.

About 350 people purchased travel packages to Tampa from Towson Travel, Wanek said. Of those, about 150 also purchased game tickets through the agency.

When the fans arrived at their hotels Friday, their tickets were not waiting, as promised. Premier told fans that the tickets would be sent Saturday, but they weren't. "They just strung us along," said Daniel Cochran of New Park, Pa.

Dozens of irate fans showed up yesterday at Premier's offices. Hastings gave tickets to about 65 of the fans. Others said they were told that they could have tickets if they paid an extra $1,000.

Ninety minutes before kickoff, a Premier official arrived at the stadium with about 20 tickets for the more than 50 fans who were still without tickets.

After the last handful of tickets was distributed in a lottery, people who were selected bickered over whether they should keep them or give them to someone else. Adults and children were crying. A scuffle broke out when a man who was not part of the tour group came over trying to pay thousands of dollars for one of the tickets.

"It's so unfair for the rest of them," said Mary Krull of Northeast Baltimore, in tears after getting the last lottery ticket. "We are all heartbroken. I just don't think it should be me going in. It should be one of these others."

Some of the fans without tickets - who Wanek said will qualify for refunds - headed to a Ravens party at a Tampa bar. Others said they were returning to their hotel.

"It was a lot of money," Dave Rosas, 41, of Forest Hill said before the game. "If I would have known this would have happened, I would have preferred to stay home and watch the game with my son."

Sun staff writer Lisa Goldberg contributed to this article.

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