University of Virginia men's basketball fans are scrambling to book their trips to New York City and find a seat in Madison Square Garden for Friday night's game against Michigan State.
The ’Hoos are headed to the NCAA’s Sweet Sixteen for the first time in 19 years. Fans like Stevie Farmer and Haider Arshad, who lead the UVA student cheering section, known as the ’Hoo Crew, have less than five days to figure out travel plans.
“We went to every ACC tournament game and we’ve been to the first two tournament games, so why stop now?” Farmer said.
“We called Raleigh JPJ South. I guess we’re no headed to JPJ North up in Madison Square Garden,” Arshad said.
Amtrak may be the most direct way, as the train stops at Penn Station right below the garden. NBC29 priced a trip from Charlottesville to New York City - leaving Friday morning to get to the 10 p.m. tipoff at Madison Square Garden and coming back Monday - costs $318.
“New York is one of our top markets. You add the fact that now there's a lot more people trying to get there - especially on a direct - it's very difficult,” said CHO spokesman Jason Burch.
Ruckersville-based bus company the Starlight Express runs students, military, seniors, and children under 15 $99.90 round-trip and regular adults $139.90 round-trip, but you'd have to leave Charlottesville Thursday evening. The company is offering a deal for passengers to return free Monday if the ’Hoos win all weekend and head to the Final Four.
“We are the least expensive, and if you're going to pay a little extra for that ticket, better save on the way up,” said Dan Goff, Starlight Express manager.
Driving yourself will run about $90, but that cost is just to fill up your tank. The tolls to get across the bridges or tunnels to get into New York City cost $13 each way. The cheapest parking NBC29 could find around Madison Square Garden is $36 a day.
Once you get to New York, tickets for all the weekend's games are no bargain. They start at $484. High-rolling fans can go in for a 12-person suite for $67,500.
The university says the NCAA only allotted 1,200 tickets to the Cavaliers, and donors get first dibs. A raffle system is selling the rest to students for about $300 apiece.
“It’s absolutely worth every penny,” Arshad said. “We wouldn’t miss it for the world.”