Elk Grove Village's second foray into the world of college football will feature a team making its first ever appearance in a bowl game taking on Chicago Bears star Khalil Mack's alma mater.
The 2019 Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl on Dec. 20 will match the Buffalo Bulls representing the Mid-American Conference and the Charlotte 49ers from Conference USA. Both teams are 7-5 as they prepare for the nationally televised matchup at Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium in Nassau, Bahamas.
Using its "Makers Wanted" marketing tagline in the event's title, Elk Grove last year became the first non-tourist municipality to sponsor a college bowl game. Village trustees in February voted unanimously to exercise their option to sponsor this year's contest for a $300,000 fee.
Village leaders say the sponsorship is an unconventional approach to promoting the town's massive industrial park to a national and international audience.
Officials say last year's game provided the village with nearly $12 million in marketing value, from the news stories written about the unusual pairing between college football and a Chicago suburb, to in-game promotions aired on ESPN to commercials broadcast during the contest seen on television by an estimated 838,000 viewers.
The sponsorship also had a hand in Oklahoma-based Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores deciding to build a new 7,600-square-foot store and fueling station at Busse Road and Pratt Boulevard, officials say. Construction is scheduled to begin in the spring.
This year's game will be the first of the 2019 college bowl season, and the first meeting between Buffalo and Charlotte. For Charlotte, it will mark the program's first bowl game since it moved up to the top tier Football Bowl Subdivision of the sport in 2013. Both teams will be making their first appearance in the Bahamas, and it will be the first time the teams have faced off.
First-year Charlotte head coach Will Healy announced the team's bowl invite Sunday morning by walking into a team meeting wearing snorkeling gear.
"We are ecstatic to accept an invitation to play in the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl. It means so much to me that this group, especially our outstanding seniors -- our Gold Standard -- will have a chance to play together one more time," Healy said in a statement issued by bowl organizers. "To do it in paradise? We couldn't ask for anything more. Nothing will ever change the fact that this team was the first to go to a bowl game in Charlotte football history. That's incredible, and I am so proud of everyone who worked so hard to make this a reality. We'll have to work hard in the coming weeks to prepare for an excellent Buffalo team."
For more information on the 2019 Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl, visit MakersWantedBahamasBowl.com.