The Charlotte Observer
STARS SHINE AT TICKET BOX
Football fans with madness in their eyes and money in their hands made the Charlotte Stars of the World Football League an instant box office success Thursday.
The response was a financial touchdown for Stars vice president Upton Bell on the first play from scrimmage. And the rumblings from the fans have every indication that Bell is guaranteed continued financial support should the Stars prove as potent at Memorial Stadium where they'll play four home games this year beginning Oct. 9.
At a Wednesday evening news conference, Bell announced the team had sold 6,500 season tickets for the last four games and 5,000 single-game tickets.
"I've never seen anything like this in the two other cities I've been in - Baltimore and Foxboro," Bell said. "People are calling up and ordering 75 and 80 tickets."
Ticket manager Ken Bogdanoff said earlier Wednesday, "I came from the Philadelphia Bell (5-7 in WFL competition) and I think we sold more tickets here today than we sold in Philly for the season. In Philly we sat around and did nothing. We're busy here.
The excitement extended to the Chamber of Commerce; where officials took orders for 600 tickets, and various city hall offices where the phones rang all day.
But the big action came at the Manager Motor Inn on North Tryon Street where hundreds began lining up 8 a.m.
The fans came from Gastonia, Lincolnton, Albemarle, Matthews, Locust, Pineville, and Charlotte. They came as surrogate purchasers for friends who couldn't make it and were afraid the tickets would be gone.
There were bankers purchasing tickets to dispense to important accounts and salesman buying tickets to give to influence clients. There were mechanics in greasy coveralls businessman in suits, accountants, auditors, and housewives.
They came loaded with cash and checks, especially Charlotte auditor T. L. Bent who paid $570 for 19 sets of season tickets ($30 a set for four tickets priced at $7.50 a ticket.)
"I'm the ticket chaser," Bent quipped. "I had originally planned to go and when other people heard they asked me to get tickets."
Bent, an avid football fan, who has had to be satisfied watching the NFL Falcons in Atlanta until now, waited more than two hours to give his order.
Joe Bishop Jr. who waited in line nearly three hours to buy three season packages, said, "I'll drive in every week from Locust to see the games. It was a long wait, but it's worth it."
Travis Turner, a Southern Equipment salesman from Gastonia, waited nearly an hour to pay $300 for 10 sets of season tickets for his customers.
"We'll use them (the tickets) as a sales technique," he said. "Of course, I'll keep two for myself."
Margie Crump was waiting to buy tickets, too. A housewife from Lincolnton, Mrs. Crump was there because her husband a bank executive, asked her to buy eight sets of season tickets.
"We'll use them to entertain customers," Mrs. Crump said. She added she would also attend the games with her husband.
"I'm excited. I like football," she said. And the brand of football didn't seem to matter.
While Bogdanoff and his aides sold tickets from sales offices in lobby three more aides were taking telephone orders on the first floor of the motel, whose manager had turned over six rooms and the lobby to the Stars.
Persons calling the Manager for tickets had to go through the main switchboard - which has 10 tickets had to go through the main switchboard - which had 10 incoming lines - and we then transferred to one of the rooms. The phones were busy all day and Manger clerks from California had trouble getting through to make advance reservations.
For Mrs. Kay Speidel, the Manager switchboard operator, the hectic morning began at 10 a.m. when her shift started. The yellow and red lights on the board flashed incessantly.
Those lines are busy, please hold." she told caller after caller. She then flicked a switch throwing the caller into limbo as he heard nothing but prayed his calls would eventually go through.
Mrs. Speidel broke the silence periodically to advise the waiting caller "they had not been forgotten."
Most waited up to 10 minutes.
"The people were just great," Mrs. Speidal said.
Upstairs, Mrs. Mille Crowe was one of those answering the calls.
She took one order from Big Ways Radio for 30 sets of season tickets. A sporting goods store ordered 22 sets. Mrs. Crowe had little time to discuss her sales, because in less than 15 minutes she sold more than 100 tickets.
The clerks took the name and address of each customer and the order and told the customers to mail the check to Johnston Building t 212 S. Tryon Street.
Customers wanting single tickets were told their orders would be filled after season ticket orders were filled.
"We'll take your order," Mrs. Crowe told one man requesting a single ticket. "But I can't guarantee where you'll be or if you'll be there."
Callers were also told that season-ticket holders get priority seats for playoffs and next season's tickets.
If printed in time, the tickets will be mailed to the customers. If not, they can be picked up at the Johnston Building.
For Bell, it was a busy but satisfying day even though he missed most of the selling action. After weeks of frustrating negotiations to bring the hapless, Detroit Wheels (1-12) to Charlotte. Bell finally landed the Stars (8-5) in a hastily arranged deal.
And while the fans were besieging the Manger for tickets, Bell was busy with hundreds of last minute details, including arranging for shuttle busses to Memorial Stadium on game nights because of the limited parking.
Bell spent part of the morning at the Johnston Building itself, arranging for office space on the east end of the third floor.
Because Bell couldn't arrange for phone service at his new office, tickets will still be sold and telephone orders taken today at the Manger. "We hope to be in Johnston by Saturday," he said.
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