CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
UH football fans are going to Las Vegas for today's game against the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. Douglas and Marlene Pilares will be watching their son, Kealoha, a player for UH.
UH game makes Vegas no gamble
Thousands of football fans have flown to Sin City expecting a win
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Roxanne and Fred Kalilimoku hopped a plane to Las Vegas with 30 friends and family Thursday to watch their son, linebacker Brad Kalilimoku, play in today's University of Hawaii football game.'
Hawaii (2-0) at UNLV (1-1)
Today: 3:30 p.m. Hawaii time
TV: Live on pay per view, Oceanic Ch. 255. Replayed on KFVE (Ch. 5) at 9:30 p.m.
Radio: Live, 1420-AM
"It's like taking Hawaii up there," Fred said of the contingent.
He has a point.
UH supporters bought about 7,000 tickets to the game against University of Nevada at Las Vegas, according to Derek Inouchi, spokesman for the UH Athletics Department. The last time the two teams played in Vegas, in 2003, about 5,000 local fans traveled from Hawaii. Inouchi said another 3,000 tickets were sold to UH fans in Nevada or elsewhere on the mainland.
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Thousands of University of Hawaii football fans found the mix of Las Vegas, Colt Brennan's run for the Heisman Trophy and a shot at an undefeated Warriors season too good to pass up.
Travel companies on Oahu saw a jump in demand from 30 percent to 200 percent for travel packages to Sin City for today's game against the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. The UH Athletic Department said about 7,000 tickets to the game were sold to UH fans here.
Vacations Hawaii, which specializes in charter flights to Vegas, added two flights, or an additional 388 seats, to their inventory this week. Normally the company sends six 194-seat charter planes to Vegas a week at this time of year, said Russell Gouveia, Vacations Hawaii's marketing and operations manager.
The first extra flight left Wednesday nearly full, and the second left Thursday, sold out.
Vacations Hawaii flew 1,100 customers in chartered jets to Vegas between Tuesday and Thursday and about 500 people on other airlines, Gouveia said.
At Non-Stop Travel on Oahu, business spiked about 200 percent, according to company President Danny Ching. He said the company usually sells about 100 to 130 seats a week to Vegas but sold closer to 300 seats this week. That was during a period when packages, which included a game ticket, were selling for about $200 more than regular prices, he said.
"Most of the main (downtown) hotels we see are mostly just Hawaiian residents," he said by phone from Vegas. "You can tell by the way they dress and the way they talk."
Ching said the hotels were catering to the local clientele with signs welcoming UH football fans and a lineup of local entertainment, including Amy Hanaiali'i Gilliom and Cecilio & Kapono.
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
University of Hawaii fans left Thursday bound for Las Vegas via Omni Air to support the football team in its quest for an undefeated season. Clarence Bush II won two airline tickets to see the Warriors in Las Vegas.
Vacations Hawaii's customers who waited until the last minute to purchase tickets had to pay premium prices from $650 to $850, compared with the standard of about $500 for five nights, Gouveia said.
After UH's win against Louisiana Tech last weekend, 100 packages were sold in a last-minute sales boost, Gouveia said.
At Boyd Gaming Corp., which owns three downtown Vegas hotels totaling about 1,600 rooms, spokesman Rob Stillwell said, "We're nearly sold out. We're expecting a lot of fans."
Boyd Gaming, which owns Vacations Hawaii, has a large customer base in Hawaii.
"This weekend will have a holiday weekend feel to it," Stillwell said.
"It's exciting," said Michele Yoshinaga, of Waianae, before she boarded a Thursday flight to Vegas. "And it's Vegas."
Her friend Arthur Domingo anticipated visiting Hawaii friends in Vegas along with catching the game. "It's the whole camaraderie," he said. "It's a lot of partying."
For Nuuanu resident Shepard Kawakami, it's not Vegas that's special, it's the Warriors football team.
"It's just the game. I love UH football," he said. "We'd better enjoy this because this is not going to come around for a long time. This is a magical season."