Military Bowl blossoms in Annapolis

2016 Military Bowl logo - Original Credit:

Now in its ninth year, and fourth in Annapolis, the Military Bowl has the feel and look of a well-oiled machine. Both Annapolis and Washington, benefit from its presence during and just after Christmas, and the bowl itself has established itself as a bona fide year-round operation dedicated to the military, its veterans and families.

"The bowl has really been on an incline since we moved the game to Annapolis," said Steve Beck, president and executive director of the event that is sponsored by Northrop Grumman and operated by the DC Bowl Committee. "The combination of the two cities is perfect, since it is a fantastic educational experience and the fans get to enjoy beautiful facilities."


Annapolis has prepared for the bowl well in advance, planning for a number of events leading up to Tuesday afternoon's game.

"Our team meets for months ahead of the bowl, including fire, police, safety, emergency," Annapolis Mayor Mike Pantelides said. "We have a great team here. The city sells itself, and the town has a lot to offer."


The two schools for this year's bowl, Temple and Wake Forest, arrived Thursday to Washington and have conducted practice, as well as taken in the sights.

The Demon Deacons will have Christmas at Walter Reed National Medical Center in Bethesda. Temple, the American Athletic Conference champions, will go bowling with veterans at the Armed Forces Retirement Home on Sunday afternoon.

"It means a lot to both see and talk to those people who have served our country," said Wake Forest senior linebacker Marquel Lee, a first-team All-ACC selection and a native of Waldorf, who attended Westlake High School. "They have been through a lot and no sacrifice is greater than giving your life. I am honored to play in this game."

Events in Annapolis kick off Monday with a Wine Walk (4-6 p.m) and Pub Crawl (4-9 p.m) with several art and antique galleries, restaurants and bars participating. Also, the Military Bowl Salutes Our Heroes Dinner will take place at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium at 6:30 p.m. The bowl parade kicks off from City Dock at 10:30 Tuesday morning, winding its way to the stadium by 11:30-11:45 a.m.

"Mayor Pantelides came on after the first year and took a very positive move and embraced the bowl, and sought to find out how we can work closer together," Annapolis Public Information Officer Rhonda Wardlaw said. "This is a fine-tuned machine that involves a great venue for a football game."

That venue, Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, undergoes little in the way of change from a regular Navy contest, with the major exception being the changing of names in the end zones and the Military Bowl's logo located at midfield.

"There are a number of things where, in a lot of areas, it is exactly like a Navy game, except, Navy is not playing," said Bill Givens, associate athletic director for operations and championships for the Naval Academy. "Normally, all but two to three thousand fans are Navy fans, so they have been here and know what to do and where to go. The parking plan is a lot different, and we normally do not have a parade leading up to the game, but we also normally have the Mids marching in. Temple was here three weeks ago, but Wake Forest has not been here for several years... I am a huge college football fan, and it is advantageous and fortuitous to have this bowl game that day. It is the only game on, coming live from Annapolis. It is good publicity for everyone involved."

Over the three previous years the Military Bowl has taken place in Annapolis, there has been an estimated $47 million direct impact on the local Annapolis and D.C. economies.


"Tourism is an amazingly huge revenue generator in our area, and the bowl has been a real plus for tourism," said Frank DiVenti, chief marketing officer of Visit Annapolis. "This is another branding tool for us, and it is great every time the word Annapolis comes up on that scrawl at the bottom of television stations throughout bowl season. It is a great chance to promote and brand the area and it is one of the major events we highlight all year."

Wardlaw describes Annapolis as an "intimate and historic town, a museum with no walls." That environment is appealing to the families and fans of schools that are in close proximity to the area, including Temple, which is playing its second game in Annapolis in just over three weeks.

"We have been very fortunate with the matchups," Beck said. "It is easy for people to get here and they love the restaurants, the shops and the water."

In a crowded bowl lineup that features a total of 43 contests, the Military Bowl often stands out because of its mission, which includes giving at least $100,000 to the USO every year. Although the bowl itself is the annual highlight, the DC Bowl Committee functions year-round, and this year took a major step in support of veterans and their families. In April, it purchased a 290-acre property in Cambridge, for use by wounded veterans and their families. A group of military charities were entertained there in August.

The long-term goals meet with the short-term experiences the players get to have with veterans during bowl week.

"What our military does for us is unbelievable, and to get to meet those people and get their perspective is always something valuable to learn from," said Wake Forest junior quarterback John Wolford.


It appears to be entrenched in Annapolis for the foreseeable future, providing a highlight between Christmas and New Year's. When the Monumental City Ancient Fife and Drum Corps, followed immediately by the Budweiser Clydesdales, departs City Dock Tuesday to begin the parade, it will mark the start, and sort of an end, to another successful year in this relationship.

"People in this area love the military, and the game is a chance to bring enthusiasm back downtown this time of year," Wardlaw said. "We are invested as a city in this bowl. This is a great place to have the game, and visitors can come down West Street and have an enjoyable experience on the way to the game, or they can stop back down afterward at a deli or restaurant."

Military Bowl


Tuesday, 3:30 p.m.

at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium