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North Carolina State football team set to arrive in San Diego for Holiday Bowl

Petco Park in Downtown San Diego, Calif. Feb. 18, 2021.
Matt Hoffman
Petco Park in Downtown San Diego, Calif. Feb. 18, 2021.

The North Carolina State football team is scheduled to arrive in San Diego Thursday to begin a series of practices and activities leading up to facing UCLA in Tuesday's 43rd annual Holiday Bowl, the first at Petco Park.

“People are starving for big-time college football game and we’re bringing it to them on December the 28th,” Holiday Bowl spokesman Rick Schloss said.

The arrival will mark the first time many of the Wolfpack players will be on the West Coast, according to coach Dave Doeren, who was born at Naval Base Coronado in 1971 as his father was stationed there.


"It's pretty neat for me to get the chance to come back to where I was born and play in a bowl and to get to do it in a professional baseball stadium," said Doeren, who grew up in Kansas. "I've never played in a baseball stadium, so that'll be a fun experience."

There are no Californians on the North Carolina State roster, which primarily consists of players from North Carolina. The player raised closest to California is freshman backup quarterback Ben Finley, who is from Phoenix, Arizona and whose older brother Ryan was the Wolfpack's starting quarterback from 2016-18.

The Bruins are set to arrive Friday.

The converted ballpark has the capacity to hold upwards of 40,000 people and the game will be aired on Fox Sports.

Transforming a baseball diamond into a football gridiron was no easy task.


"From the time the Padres ended their season, they had to move some seats around in left-center field, left field and in right field behind the dugout so they’ve done all that transformation," Schloss said, "The sod is down, the field is lined. It’s ready to go.”

Mayor Todd Gloria knows that this event is great for the local economy.

“Not only does it direct the eyeballs of the world to our city, which is a really good thing, but it also brings a lot of people to town and their credit card,” he said.

“We also bring a lot of income to San Diego through tourism and we’ve done nearly a billion, $977 million dollars since the Holiday Bowl started in 1978,” Schloss said.

North Carolina State football team set to arrive in San Diego for Holiday Bowl

North Carolina State is scheduled to visit the San Diego Zoo on Friday, and join UCLA at Sea World on Saturday and on a tour of the Navy assault ship USS Makin Island Sunday.

"I've always enjoyed Sea World," Doeren told reporters Dec. 5 when the bowl matchup was announced. "I'll definitely be taking that in."

This will be the first time an Atlantic Coast Conference team has played in the Holiday Bowl. Under an agreement announced in 2019, the ACC will supply a team for the game at least through 2025. The agreement was supposed to begin with the 2020 game, which was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The sale of SDCCU Stadium — where the Holiday Bowl had been played since its inaugural edition in 1978 through 2019 — to San Diego State University in 2020, and its demolition to make way for a west campus and Aztec Stadium, left the bowl game without a home.

The San Diego Padres announced a partnership with the San Diego Bowl Game Association in July allowing the Holiday Bowl to be played at Petco Park for a minimum of the next five years, beginning this year, dependent on City Council approval, which was granted later in July, overturning a previous ban on football at the downtown baseball stadium.

It's more than a game. Holiday Bowl organizers are ready to put on a party for San Diego and its visitors.

“Everything is downtown, so on Monday night we’ve got an event called the Snapdragon Bowl Bash with a bunch of 80’s singers, bands here out at Gallagher Square,” Schloss said.

There is also the Holiday Bowl Parade on Tuesday morning that will march down the streets of downtown and includes America’s largest balloon parade, marching bands, floats and drill teams.