After five years in the District, the Military Bowl is staking out a future in Annapolis, and city leaders are hoping to cash in on the cachet of hosting a nationally televised college football bowl game.
With events including a flyover by a World War II-era B-25 bomber and the landing of a parachute team at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, bowl organizers hope Friday’s game between the University of Maryland and Marshall University taps the military pride of Annapolis — home of the Naval Academy and plenty of Navy retirees. Previously, the Military Bowl was held at RFK Stadium in Washington.
But if organizers see red, white and blue, city officials, restaurants and hotels are seeing green, anticipating an economic boost of $1 million to $2 million in a week that’s traditionally a post-holiday bust.
Three of the Annapolis’s five major hotels are sold out, and hotels around Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport could get a bump, too, said Connie Del Signore, president and chief executive of the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Conference and Visitors Bureau. Though official host hotels — where the teams are staying — are in Washington, bowl officials, broadcast crews from ESPN and fans are choosing to stay in Annapolis, she said.
“The town of Annapolis, after the game, is going to be rocking,” said Steve Beck, the Military Bowl’s director. “You can imagine all those people looking for something to do after the game. Annapolis, Main Street — the historic nature of it all is the perfect setting.”
City officials couldn’t agree more, and they hope festivities, including a parade on Main Street with Medal of Honor winners, marching bands and the Budweiser Clydesdales, will draw visitors who will be enchanted by the town.
“They’ll come, they’ll see what a beautiful place Annapolis is, and they’ll come back,” Mayor Mike Pantelides (R) said.
The bowl game festivities will bring some inconveniences, however, including street closings.
“We welcome the visitors, but it messes up the traffic terribly, especially for the people who live and work here,” said Jenny Alderman, who works at York Flowers on State Circle. “It really just causes us a headache. We don’t have parking enough without the visitors.”
“I anticipate traffic will be difficult through the entire downtown area during” the parade, said Cpl. Amy Miguez of the Annapolis Police Department. She said police would have extra officers on hand and the city would extend shuttle- bus service to “help alleviate [traffic], at least, for people who want to get in and see some of the parade and things like that.”
The bowl’s effect pales in comparison to Annapolis’s fall boat shows, which span two weekends and bring about $50 million to the city. But the Military Bowl will be on the scale of the Naval Academy’s commissioning week in May, which generates about $2 million in economic impact.
Last year’s game, in which San Jose State beating Bowling Green, 29-20, drew 17,835 fans to RFK. But Beck is expecting a full stadium in Annapolis this year. The stadium officially holds 34,000, but can accommodate more. VIP suites and Touchdown Club packages were sold out the day after the Maryland-Marshall matchup was announced.
Beck didn’t have an exact figure for ticket sales as of Monday, though he said it was in the “high 20” thousands. He said organizers were hoping weather would be nice enough to open up extra spectator seating on the grassy areas of the stadium.
Game day will start with a private morning reception at the governor’s mansion for Medal of Honor winners.
Public festivities include the 11 a.m. parade up Main Street from the City Dock, past the State House and to the stadium. A public tailgate party begins at 10 a.m. at the stadium, and kickoff is at 2:30 p.m. The start of the game includes the B-25 flyover, the parachute team and the performance of the national anthem by 4Troops, an ensemble of veterans.
The game will wrap up around dinnertime, and restaurants and shops hope fans migrate from the stadium to downtown, West Annapolis or Eastport for postgame celebrations or consolations.
Baltimore Sun reporter Joe Burris contributed to this report.