A new way to fly with BC Eagles
Sox owners offering luxe charter service
Boston College's athletics program plans to start offering its wealthy football fans a quick way to shuttle to away games via chartered jets.
The business, dubbed Eagle Destinations, will be run by Fenway Sports Group, the sports marketing firm of Red Sox principal owner John Henry, which already runs a lucrative Red Sox travel business. That business, Red Sox Destinations, has taken more than 2,500 Sox fans on jaunts across the country.
Now, Fenway Sports plans to apply the same business model to Boston College football: It will charter a 200-seat Boeing 757 jet to fly Eagles fans from Hanscom Field to games versus Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, and Clemson this season. Along the way, they'll be given Boston College jerseys and other team paraphernalia, be treated to private tailgating, and sit in premium seats at opponents' stadiums.
The New York Times Co., which owns The Boston Globe, holds a 17 percent stake in the company that owns the Red Sox and Fenway Sports Group.
Executives said they expect to break even this year and make money in the future. But they also have a separate agenda: turning well-to-do Boston College alumni into traveling billboards.
"There's a benefit to showing the nation that hey, Boston College does travel. There's this misperception among other fans that BC fans don't travel well, but we're trying to change that perception," said Tim Zue, who runs Red Sox Destinations.
Changing that perception is important now that Boston College plays in the Atlantic Coast Conference after defecting from the Big East three years ago. The ACC is regarded as a more lucrative powerhouse conference, especially when it comes to TV broadcast rights.
But how many fans show up, even to away games, can make a difference in just how lucrative playing in the ACC is, executives close to the program said. Attendance could even affect more important things, such as whether a team plays in a prestigious bowl game.
"They say look, these guys sold out at Georgia, they sold out at Clemson, these guys are going to fill up the stadium, sell out their merchandise. That's what they look at, the economic impact," said Ken Bruce, executive vice president at Dodds Athletic Tours, a Champaign, Ill., company that also does game trips for Boston College and other ACC schools.
"The payouts are bigger, the merchandising is bigger, it helps recruiting. Every athletics director wants to be in the national spotlight."
Bruce and executives from Fenway Sports and Boston College said the new tours will not be in competition with what Dodds provides, which tend to be less expensive and longer than the ones Fenway Sports are planning. Fans arranging for their own accommodations could pay Dodds as little as $20 for a tailgate pass to the game, while an all-inclusive package to a far-away game would entail a hotel, tailgating, and shuttles to and from a game and last as long as three days.
The new packages aim for a shorter stay and more perks, but at a premium. Fans can choose to travel to the Oct. 13 game at Notre Dame and either the Oct. 25 game against Virginia Tech or the Nov. 17 matchup with Clemson for $2,700 per person. Fans who want to attend one game instead of two could pay $1,100.
Eagles Destinations is the latest venture Fenway Sports created for Boston College. The company was first hired in 2005 to increase the visibility of Boston College sports. Last month, that deal was extended through 2019.
Keith Reed can be reached at email@example.com.