Possible Blackout

Bears fans could be left in the dark when it comes to finding their team on television in 2002. Despite having one of the most memorable seasons in team history the Bears could have problems getting Chicago area fans to drive south on I-57 to Champaign.

The organization has played off the possibility that the team wouldn't be able to sellout Memorial Stadium. However, less than one month away from the preseason opener the Bears and television officials are singing a bit of a different tune. There is a possibility that multiple games may be blacked out in Chicago.

''It's probably being overdramatic, but I have to say it would be devastating to us if that happened,'' Dave Greeley, the team's chief marketing officer, said in a Chicago Sun-Times story. ''It's something we're very concerned about, and we're doing everything in our power to make sure we're on the air. We're pulling out all the stops to sell tickets, and that's something we've never had to do.''

Single-game tickets will be made available to the public on July 20, but there is a lot of work to be done between now and the beginning of the season.

Over sixty percent of season ticket holders declined to buy a 10-game package for games at Memorial Stadium. They took advantage of an offer by the team that allows them to maintain their priority for 2003 in renovated Soldier Field, which means the Bears are in search of a new customer base for the upcoming campaign.

The result has been several new ticket packages including four- and six-game plans. Another concept the Bears are using is selling packages to groups of 25 or more, which they were unable to do in the past. This has been very popular for some dates (Minnesota, Philadelphia and New England) certain to be good draws. Single-game tickets to the Monday night game with Green Bay on Oct. 7 are not available. Fans must purchase a two-game plan that includes a preseason contest and are limited to two tickets to see the Packers.

There is also a question of what constitutes a sellout for Bears games in Memorial Stadium, which seats 75,000 for Illini games. The number is to be finalized this month, but will be less because of concerns for security in sections close to the field. It is possible areas higher up could be blocked off.

Filling Memorial Stadium for Chicago and Green Bay will not be a problem, but reaching capacity for New Orleans, Detroit and the New York Jets is a challenge.

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