When the Baltimore Ravens clinched their trip to New Orleans for this year’s Super Bowl, some Frederick County residents scrambled to find tickets to the big game.
“I feel like a kid at Christmas,” said Bill Gallagher, 50, of Middletown. “I haven’t had this feeling in a long time — the anticipation is just amazing.”
The Ravens will play the San Francisco 49ers at 6:30 p.m. Sunday.
Gallagher, a Ravens season ticket holder since the team’s first days in Baltimore in 1996, is traveling to New Orleans with his wife, Cheryl, and friends Matt Shearer and Ric and Dee Buchanan, with whom he tailgates regularly.
For those tailgates, he drives his custom-painted, purple and black 1983 Chevy Vandor, which has been converted into a camper and adorned with a No. 52 for retiring Ravens star linebacker Ray Lewis.
Although he loves his van, he’s not driving it down to New Orleans, joking that he wasn’t sure if it would make the lengthy trip.
Gallagher said not attending the Ravens’ Super Bowl victory in 2000 is one of his biggest regrets.
“I was 38 then; I’m 50 now — if it takes another 12 years I’ll be eligible for Social Security if I don’t go,” he joked. “As good as the team’s been — we’ve had a great team for the last five years — when you have these opportunities, you have to grab ahold of them.”
Ric Buchanan, 46, of Middletown has been a Ravens season ticket holder since 2006, and a fan of the team since it moved to Baltimore in 1996. He was able to get his tickets to the game through the team’s lottery system.
“Honestly, I thought about this this morning — it’s still sinking in,” he said Monday. “It’s just kind of surreal.”
Buchanan, who’s never been to New Orleans, said he was also looking forward to checking out the food and music in the city, as well as what he thought would be a pro-Ravens crowd.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people, and I get the sense that it’s going to be 2- or 3-to-1, Ravens fans vs. San Francisco fans,” he said. “It’s going to be great to see all the people in that location.”
Not everyone was as lucky as Buchanan and able to get their tickets through the lottery. Face value for tickets to the game are $850, $950 and $1,250, according to Joanna Hunter, an NFL spokeswoman.
But those without access to face value tickets have to turn to the secondary market, including websites like Stubhub.com, where the cheapest tickets were selling for $1,769 each, as of Tuesday.
Matt Shearer, 33, of Frederick joked that he paid “entirely too much” for his $1,895 ticket.
“My ticket will be slightly more than twice the value of theirs, which I think is worth it because I’m young and I’m single,” he said.
Shearer, who teaches band at Middletown High School, said he was thrilled to be going to such a jazz hotspot.
“I’m a huge jazz fan — hopefully, I’ll be able to check out a couple of jazz clubs and some of the history while I’m there,” he said. “I’m getting down Thursday, so I’ll have all day Friday and Saturday.”
But not all the Ravens fans can afford the trip down to New Orleans.
Linda Cleveland, owner of Antietam Travel Service Inc., a Frederick-based travel agency, said her agency had received several calls from Ravens fans about traveling to New Orleans for the game, but that all were turned away by the high cost of the event.
“It’s about $5,000 a person for the hotel, tickets, transportation back and forth,” she said. “We were just saying [in the office] ‘How do people afford this?’”
Cleveland said Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways have added additional flights between Baltimore and New Orleans to accommodate fans traveling to cheer for the Ravens, but that a lot of the cost comes after landing in Louisiana.
“When you’re there to get a hotel — we were just checking one today, the closest hotel was in Baton Rouge, which is about 75 miles,” she said. “But they’d have to get themselves from Baton Rouge to the game.”