City gets Army vs. Navy in 2007

As in 2000, Baltimore to welcome service classic

College Football

April 24, 2003|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

The Army-Navy football game - one of the nation's most prestigious sporting events - is coming back to Baltimore.

There will be, however, a bit of a wait required.

Officials from both service academies announced yesterday that the city has been awarded the 2007 Army-Navy game, which will be played at Ravens Stadium. Baltimore was the site of the game in 2000 but had last held it in 1944.

Philadelphia, which has held 76 of the 103 games in the rivalry, outbid 13 other cities for the right to hold the contest at newly built Lincoln Financial Field in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2008. The city had previously secured the rights to the 2003 game, which will be held Dec. 6.

"We are grateful to every city that came forward with extraordinary enthusiasm and extended unprecedented commitments in their efforts to attract the game," Naval Academy athletic director Chet Gladchuk said. "Especially Philadelphia and Baltimore, who made it clear they did not want this classic to get away."

"In the end," said Army athletic director Rick Greenspan, "we felt awarding four games to Philadelphia and one to Baltimore was in the best interests of the cadets and midshipmen, as well as the graduates and fans of both academies."

Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley said the game provides a unique opportunity for Baltimore to showcase itself. "I'm elated," he said. "It means people get to see Baltimore at its best. If they come to the game, they can go out afterward to museums and restaurants and make a weekend out of it. People that view it on TV get a chance to see our city as well.

"The Army-Navy game is a very inspiring and patriotic event. I think the home of `The Star-Spangled Banner' is a fitting home for it," O'Malley said.

Ravens president and CEO David Modell said there was originally an effort to secure multiple Army-Navy games for Baltimore over the next five years, but in the end, one made better financial sense.

"Clearly we wanted as many games as we could get, but at the end of the day we focused on just getting one of the five," Modell said. "We're very happy. We've had a team working on this for about six months, and I think it's a tremendous win for the community."

Even though Army and Navy have had little success on the football field recently (the teams combined to win three games in 2002), interest in the Army-Navy game remains high. As a result, the academies were able to ask for more from prospective bidders, including a bigger share of the gate, more tickets and free transportation for all their midshipmen and cadets.

Philadelphia's proposal included personal pitches from Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, 76ers coach Larry Brown, Phillies manager Larry Bowa and Flyers center Jeremy Roenick.

"The city of Philadelphia really pulled out all the stops," Gladchuk said. "They made an incredible effort. Their ambition was to get all five games. The [Naval Academy] felt that at a minimum we should be in Baltimore at some point during the five years, but two games would have been very difficult with the proposal that Philadelphia put together."

Though specific financial terms of the agreement were not released, the two service academies said the contract with the two cities exceeds $20 million over the five-year period.

In 2000, Baltimore offered extras that required $750,000 in private donations. Associated activities included a parade from the Inner Harbor to the stadium, and a "fan fest" at the Convention Center with appearances by ex-Navy players Roger Staubach and Joe Bellino.

Dan Lincoln, senior vice president of the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association, said the Army-Navy game in 2000 drew $14 million to $16 million in revenue to the city.

"It's really fantastic news for Baltimore," Lincoln said. "You've got 70,000 out-of-town ticket holders and fans coming into town for the weekend, filling up all the hotels, shops and restaurants. December is also typically a time of year when we could use the business."

The Ravens have the right under a lease with the Maryland Stadium Authority to book non-NFL events and split the profits with the agency.

Modell said O'Malley and Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. were both influential in helping Baltimore secure the 2007 game, as well as Jon Morton, a 1967 graduate of the Naval Academy, who is now the president of Bank of America's Mid-Atlantic Banking Group.

In recent years, there has been a push to play one of the Army-Navy games in the West, which has happened only once. In 1983, Navy defeated Army, 42-13, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. In 1926, the game was played in Chicago.

Seattle, Gladchuk said, made a bold effort to change that this time around. The state of Washington has more active military personnel than any other state, and theoretically, showcasing the game across the country could benefit recruiting.

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