Military Bowl leaves D.C. for Annapolis

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Local,Sports,DC,College,Eric P. Newcomer

Five years after coming to the District, bringing with it tens of millions of dollars for the local economy, the District's only NCAA football bowl game is headed to Annapolis.

"I think it will mean a shot in the arm for our economy," said Annapolis Mayor Joshua Cohen.

The District has struggled to keep football in the city limits, where it can attract tax revenue and a consumer spending. The city lost the Redskins to Prince George's County at the end of 1996, and now it will lose the Military Bowl as well.

Paid attendance and results
2008: 28,777 -- Wake Forest beat Navy, 29-19*
2009: 23,072 -- UCLA beat Temple, 30-21*
2010: 38,794 -- Maryland beat East Carolina, 51-20
2011: 25,042 -- Toledo beat Air Force, 42-41
2012: 17,835 -- San Jose State beat Bowling Green, 29-20
*Game was known as EagleBank Classic

On Dec. 27, the game -- between a team in Atlantic Coast Conference and one from Conference USA -- will take place at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium instead of RFK Stadium, its home for the past five years.

The bowl's organizers said the move simply fit with the military theme of the event. After the bowl's second year its name changed from the EagleBank Bowl to the Military Bowl when defense contractor Northrop Grumman took over sponsorship of the game.

"It aligns us perfectly with what we're trying to do with supporting the troops and their families," said Steve Beck, president of the Military Bowl.

For each of the past three years, the bowl's nonprofit organizers donated $100,000 to the USO and gave away 5,000 tickets to military personnel.

Organizers emphasized the event's continued ties to the District and downplayed the potential negative effect the move could have on D.C.

"Frankly, most of the economic impact will continue to be in the [District]," said Erik Moses, managing director of sports and entertainment for Events DC, a quasi-governmental agency that manages RFK Stadium and the District's ties to the Military Bowl. "We helped give birth to this bowl, and we feel very much responsible for its continued growth and development."

Participating teams will stay in hotel rooms in the District, and events -- including NCAA Football Youth Clinics -- will remain in D.C.

For his part, Mayor Cohen said he is confident Annapolis will benefit from the move.

"For a lot of local businesses it could be like a bonus extension of the Christmas shopping season," he said.

The much smaller stadium in Annapolis may be a better fit for the size of the crowds attracted to the Military Bowl. While the more than 50-year-old RFK stadium can hold about 45,000 people, the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium seats about 30,000.

During last year's game between San Jose State and Bowling Green, which ended with a San Jose State victory that helped the school finish the season 21st in the final Associated Press poll, attendance hit a five-year low of 17,835.

enewcomer@washingtonexaminer.com

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