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A new NFL plan for distribution of Super Bowl tickets has dampened the hopes of many Buffalo Bills fans of seeing the team in action Jan. 27 at Tampa Stadium.

Only half of the 8,000 Super Bowl tickets allotted for each participating club will be available in the lottery for season-ticket holders at the face-value price of $150 apiece.

The other 4,000, also available through a lottery, are part of a league-organized travel package selling for $2,000 per person. Besides the ticket, the cost includes round-trip air fare, four nights of lodging in Tampa or Orlando, Fla., parties, a commemorative jacket and cap, and a game program.

In previous years, all 8,000 tickets were available via a lottery at face value, with no other financial commitments required.

Season-ticket holders of all playoff-eligible teams have received letters informing them of both options, and that full payment must be made by Jan. 3 to secure inclusion in either lottery. Tickets would only be distributed if their team reaches Super Bowl XXV. All money would be refunded if it doesn't.

The Bills, as well as area media outlets, have received numerous phone calls from irate fans complaining about the travel-package offer. They prefer a ticket-only lottery, figuring they can furnish their own transportation, lodging and other expenses at considerably less than $2,000 per person.

Instead of reverting to the other lottery, tickets from unsold travel packages would remain the property of the travel agencies coordinating the packages for the NFL (Walt Disney Travel Company is handling it for the AFC). The packages then would be sold to the rest of the country.

Realizing the great potential for lost sales, officials for the Bills and other
NFL clubs with a shot at making the Super Bowl are unhappy about having 4,000 tickets from their allotments earmarked for the travel packages.

"Believe me, every team screamed and they're still screaming," said Jerry Foran, the Bills director of sales and marketing.

If the Bills win the AFC Championship, they would have a total of 12,000 Super Bowl tickets for distribution -- 8,000 for the two lotteries and 4,000 for purchase by players, team employees, advertisers and others with business and personal ties to the club and owner Ralph Wilson.

No NFL teams offer Super Bowl tickets for general sale, regardless of whether they are a participant. All of which means that season-ticket holders shut out in the lottery or non-season-ticket holders probably would have to turn to Super Bowl trips arranged by travel agents.

Meanwhile, tickets for the Bills' second-round playoff game (Jan. 12 or 13) are expected to go on sale to the general public late next week at the Rich Stadium ticket office and selected Marine Midland Bank branches. Date and times will be announced next week. About 12,000 to 15,000 seats that season-ticket customers didn't purchase by the Dec. 14 deadline will be sold for $22 and $30 apiece.

If the Bills win, another 12,000-15,000 tickets to the AFC Championship Game are expected to go on sale Jan. 14, for $30 and $42 apiece. No limits are expected to be placed on purchases for either game.

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