Now that the matchup has been set, Elk Grove Village officials are making final preparations on promotional and advertising efforts ahead of the village's unconventional sponsorship of a college football bowl game in The Bahamas.
Of the dozens of college football teams playing bowl games in coming weeks, those in the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl -- which uses Elk Grove's business marketing tagline -- were the first to be announced this week. Officials said the early announcement allows players and coaches enough time to get passports if they don't already have them, as well as local fans who want to make travel plans.
The game will feature Florida International of Conference USA and Toledo of the Mid-American Conference, who will square off at 11:30 a.m. Central time Friday, Dec. 21, at Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium in Nassau.
Elk Grove Mayor Craig Johnson, who came up with the idea to sponsor a bowl game to promote the village's expansive business park, just signed off on the design of "Makers Wanted Elk Grove Village Illinois" logos that will be placed on the 25-yard lines of the field. The "Makers Wanted" slogan will be nestled in between two palm trees as part of the bowl game logo on the 50-yard line.
"That had to be on," Johnson said of Elk Grove's name. "Otherwise we probably wouldn't have done the game."
In July, the village board agreed to pay $300,000 for the sponsorship deal with ESPN Events, which owns and operates 15 postseason bowl games. It's the first time a non-tourist municipality has sponsored a bowl game.
Locally on cable TV, the village promoted its bowl game sponsorship as part of a new set of commercials touting the industrial park. And though the snow has delayed things a bit, crews are set to drape large banners with the bowl game logo on the side of village hall and the public works building at Biesterfield and Meacham roads.
The intent is to gain some national -- even international -- exposure, when curious bowl game watchers search online for "Makers Wanted" and are directed to the village's business promotional website.
In the lead-up to gameday, the village's marketing campaign also includes targeted online ads and email blasts to business owners across the country who have some previous connection to college sports.
And on Thursday night, Johnson will be the invited guest of Bahamas' Honorary Consul in Chicago at a Bahamas tourism trade show in Oak Brook.
While the village isn't coordinating group travel, Cary Travel Express is putting together packages for local residents or business employees who want to make the trip. For airfare and a four-night stay the week of the game with all-inclusive meals and drinks, an estimated double occupancy rate is $2,600, Johnson said.
The Atlantis, Paradise Island, the host resort for the game where the teams will be staying, is also booking rooms for fans.
Game tickets are available through each school for $50, but Johnson said he'd make sure any Elk Grove resident who makes it down there would be able to get in the game. A block of some 30 seats has been reserved for the village, but so far only Johnson, his wife, and between 10 and 20 local business officials may be going. The mayor has said he and the others are paying their own way.
For those who can't make the trip, the village is hosting a viewing party the day of the game at Real Time Sports, 1120 W. Devon Ave. Doors open at 11 a.m. with a $5.95 half-price lunch buffet special.