`Wheel Of Fortune' Has Seattle In A Spin

Pennant fever might be cranking the turnstiles at the Kingdome, but there's another virus in town this week. Call it "Fortune" fever.

Some 11,000 people will rotate through studio audiences tonight, tomorrow and Friday at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center to watch videotapings of "Wheel of Fortune," the most popular TV game show in the country.

The "Wheel of Fortune" visit here, with host Pat Sajak and letter-turner Vanna White, is the hottest ticket in town. While there are plenty of Mariner tickets for sale, "Wheel of Fortune" tickets are hard to come by.

So hard, in fact, that a Mercer Island ticket brokerage over the weekend was scalping supposedly free studio-audience tickets, which had been distributed by radio stations and the program's Seattle home and host, KOMO-TV (Channel 4).

While selling tickets for more than face value is illegal in Seattle, there is no such ordinance on Mercer Island, where Pacific Northwest Tickets does business. But the company returned 35 tickets to KOMO after Channel 4 and the program's production company complained.

The "Wheel of Fortune" shows shot here will feature Northwest contestants - 51 were chosen in tryouts in August - and local prizes. During each program, about 2,000 people will be in the studio audience, said KOMO spokeswoman Kym Nyyssela.

Five of the shows will be taped today and tomorrow. Five more, for "College Week," are to be taped on Friday.

During a recent week, "Wheel of Fortune" was watched in an average of 10 million households, according to Nielsen Media Research. In the Seattle-Tacoma market, the show usually wins its 7 p.m. time slot on Channel 4. On Monday, for example, the show was watched in an estimated 169,000 Western Washington homes.

Plenty of Seattle flavor will be visible when the programs air nationally and on KOMO the weeks of Nov. 6-10 and Nov. 13-17.

In August, White posed atop the Space Needle, painted to resemble the wheel spun by contestants, for a scene to be used during the opening.

For "College Week," another program opening will be taped - this Saturday at Husky Stadium.

White will participate in the coin toss at the start of the University of Washington football game with Army. At halftime, the Husky marching band will perform with White, playing the "Wheel of Fortune" theme song.

And, of course, all 72,500 occupants of Husky Stadium will be led in the trademark shout that kicks off every show: "Wheel! . . . Of! . . . Fortune!"