Nov. 7, 2013
When the Golden Gophers hit the road for away football games, they are never completely alone in enemy territory. Many dedicated Gopher fans travel to watch their team. Some go on their own, but specially organized group trips play a big role in giving Minnesota a presence in other schools’ stadiums. Steve and Dorothy Erban’s Creative Charters, Inc., for example, brought 156 additional Gopher fans to Indiana’s Memorial Stadium in Bloomington last Saturday.
“Over the last three games, the excitement has started to escalate a little bit,” Steve said. “I think that’s starting to bring more fans out to support the team and coaches.”
Excitement certainly rode high last Saturday morning as the Creative Charters flight took off with the “Minnesota Rouser” playing over the speakers. Passengers in Gopher jerseys and sweatshirts sang along as their trip to Indiana began.
Buses brought the Gopher group from the Indianapolis airport to a local establishment in Bloomington for a pregame gathering before going on to Memorial Stadium. A vocal cheering section of parents, Goal Line Club members and other Gopher ticket holders formed in the seats behind the Minnesota bench.
“It was great to see so many fans at our recent road games at Northwestern and Indiana,” Minnesota director of athletics Norwood Teague said. “This is an exciting time for Gopher football and we are pleased that our fans are sharing in our recent success and supporting the team on the road. Support is critical anytime you are building a program and seeing so many fans travel to away games is just further proof that we are headed in the right direction.”
The traveling fans saw a 42-39 victory as the Gophers improved to 7-2 on the season. After the game, the team came over to celebrate with the Minnesota cheering section.
“I always wondered, ‘Can they really hear us down there with all the other noise?’” Dorothy said. “I know you can look up and see us when we’re in gold, and that’s why we always tell people to wear gold. But I wondered if being there makes a difference. For them to come up afterwards, I think that’s really cool.”
After congratulating and receiving acknowledgement from the team, the Creative Charters group reloaded the buses to the airport and arrived back in Minneapolis that night – with a few more renditions of the “Rouser” on the way.
The day trip to Indiana was a quick way to go to the game and back, but Creative Charters, which began in 1993, also arranges longer outings. The Erbans have combined athletics with destinations’ local attractions to create unique travel experiences for their groups. Whether it’s an Alamo-themed New Year’s Eve Party at the 1999 Sun Bowl in El Paso, a visit to White Sands on the New Mexico State trip this season or a get-together with friendly fans of the other team, the Erbans enjoy creating extra ways for their groups to sightsee and bond.
“Hopefully it’s a life memory,” Steve said. “It’s more than Gopher football. It’s Gopher friendship. You will increase your Christmas card list. Just last week, we had a lot of people in Indiana for the Indiana game that hadn’t traveled with us before. Then they met some other people. So all of a sudden, they come back on an airplane and they’ve got two or three more couples that they know.”
Creative Charters will likely provide a trip to East Lansing for the Gophers’ regular season finale against Michigan State. And the Erbans are certain they will be going to Minnesota’s bowl game as well. Their charter to the 2012 Meineke Car Care Bowl in Houston drew more than 250 rabid Gopher fans, and they anticipate doubling that this year, depending on the location.
“There has been demand from our fans for an easy and affordable way to travel to road games and we are thankful for our partnership with Creative Charters, as they have met this demand and helped provide lifetime memories for our fans,” Teague said. “We hope more of our fans – both diehard and casual – will take advantage of watching the Gophers on the road. Our student-athletes and coaches love seeing the welcoming sight of Maroon and Gold in opposing stadiums.”
The Erbans have fun planning and running the trips. As season ticket holders who hope to see a true “gold-out” in TCF Bank Stadium, they love to bring their fellow gold-clad fans along to experience road games together. Most customers learn about Creative Charters by word of mouth, and many of them come back again to travel with their new friends.
“People know that we’ve been doing this and that we enjoy it, that we’re not just a travel agent but true and dedicated Gopher fans,” Dorothy said.
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Minnesota opens Big Ten play at Penn State on Saturday, Oct. 1. The game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network and can be heard on KFAN.
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