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      Sold out game could be big for area business

      Excitement is building on the Syracuse University campus, and the big event is still more than three weeks away. It's the Big East basketball battle that has everyone buzzing when SU takes on Villanova later this month, and it couldn't be better for local businesses.

      Both the Orange and the Wildcats are ranked in the top five of the writers' and coaches' polls right now, and tickets to their February 27 matchup are already sold out. New t-shirts are just rolling into Manny's on Marshall Street, proudly showing off the fact that 34,616 tickets have been sold for the late-season showdown.

      This game will be the largest on-campus crowd for a college basketball game in NCAA history, and many area hotels are already selling out. "Tremendous weekend. We've been sold out for quite some time with fans coming in for the game," said Rob Benetti, general manager of the Genesee Grande Hotel.

      Benetti says it couldn't come at a better time. Winter is typically a slower time for hotels, and this is the shot in the arm they live for. "We've been very fortunate and the success that the team has had is directly proportional to the guests that we've got," he said.

      They are not alone. The Jefferson-Clinton Hotel near Armory Square has already sold out its rooms for that Saturday night. As of Thursday morning, there were only a few spots left for Friday the 26th, and they don't expect those to last much longer. "We love this. It brings a lot of excitement to the city and it's good for the hotel. It's just a great time for everyone," said Steve Busch of the Jefferson-Clinton Hotel.

      Syracuse University athletics are big business for the area. The SU-Villanova game just happens to fall during Downtown Dining Week, and Syracuse Convention and Visitors Bureau President David Holder expects a trickle-down effect. "We're going to have all these people milling around our community, taking part in our restaurants, shopping in our stores, staying in our hotels, going to our museums and attractions and they're coming here because our team is doing great," Holder said.

      Bottom line, if you want to stay overnight close to the Carrier Dome you may be out of luck. The best advice for future big Big East games is to book early.