Philadelphia, which hosted its first Army-Navy game in 1899 and has been the site of 80 more in the intervening years, will retain its distinction as the primary home of the service academies' tradition-rich football battles, according to terms of a new eight-year deal announced yesterday.
The annual game, which despite its diminished attraction as a football event remains a colorful and economically potent weekend attraction, will be played at Lincoln Financial Field in 2010, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2017, according to the Philadelphia Sports Congress.
Baltimore will be the host in 2014 and 2016, and Washington, or, more precisely, Landover, Md., in 2011.
This year's game, the last under a six-year deal signed in 2003, also will take place here, though the traditional date has been pushed back a week to the second Saturday in December to avoid conflicts with televised conference championships.
"Philadelphia just has the best package to offer the academies," said Larry Needle, executive director of the Philadelphia Sports Congress.
"As long as we are able to stay financially competitive with the other cities, I think the history here, the fact that it's geographically a midpoint between the two schools and provides a truly neutral site, and the stadium, hotels, and attractions we can offer give us an edge."
For just a second time, the academies required a formal bidding process from interested cities, which, Needle said, also included East Rutherford, N.J.; New York; and Boston.
Philadelphia submitted its proposal last November and welcomed official visitors from the academies in February.
"Between then and now, we've been involved in lots of discussions and negotiations," Needle said.
At stake for revenue-starved Philadelphia was the game's economic impact. A 2006 study by Econsult Corp. estimated that each game attracts 50,000 visitors, fills 17,000 hotel rooms, and generates $35 million in revenue for the city.
"Army-Navy weekend has a huge impact . . . every December, during a traditionally slow time of year," said Ed Grose, executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association.
Under the most recent contract, set to expire this December, Philadelphia had five of the six games. It has been the locale for all but three games since 2000.
New York, which has the new Yankee Stadium, and East Rutherford, where a new football stadium is set to open this fall, provided stiff challenges for the three selected cities, Needle said.
"New York was one of the finalists," Needle said. "It provided us with some some significant competition. I think the distance from Annapolis to Foxborough probably worked against Boston."
In the end, he said, it was difficult for the other bid cities to match Philadelphia's longstanding relationship with Army-Navy.
"We are thrilled to know that this American classic will remain a Philadelphia fixture for years to come," Gov. Rendell said in a statement. "This game is part of the very fabric of Philadelphia, and we were determined to make sure that it stayed right here where it belongs."
Philadelphia has been the host city 81 times since competition began in 1890, the first game here a 17-5 Army win at Franklin Field in 1899. It enjoyed its greatest period of stability - and popularity - between 1932 and 1979, when, except for three years during World War II, the game took place at Municipal Stadium (later known as John F. Kennedy Stadium) in South Philadelphia.
It was there, especially when the two schools were vying for national championships and its stars for Heisman Trophies during a period that stretched from the mid-1940s through the early 1960s, that some of the most memorable games in the military "bragging rights" series took place.
Army's glamour backfield of Glenn Davis and Doc Blanchard ran wild in the Cadets' 1945 win, their first postwar meeting. Three years later, underdog Navy held the powerful Cadets to a 28-28 tie. The 1963 and '64 games featured exciting duels between quarterbacks Roger Staubach of Navy and Rollie Stichweh of Army.
The game had such national appeal in those years that for the 1963 game, played shortly after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, CBS introduced a new gimmick for its broadcast - instant replay.
Presidents from Theodore Roosevelt to George W. Bush have attended, famously switching sides of the field at halftime. It's just one of the traditions - the entrance of the Corps of Cadets and Brigade of Midshipmen and the postgame singing of the alma mater are among the others - that still lend the game an appeal, long after its national-poll significance has waned.
Army-Navy continues to be nationally televised - the current CBS contract runs through 2018 - but it has never recaptured the passion and interest it generated in its post-World War II heyday.
From 1945 to 1963, the game showcased five Heisman Trophy winners - Army's Davis, Blanchard, and Pete Dawkins, and Navy's Staubach and Joe Bellino.
Navy has dominated recently, winning the last seven contests, including a rare shutout, 34-0, last year. The Midshipmen now lead the overall series 53-49-7.
"The Army-Navy game is synonymous with Philadelphia," said West Point athletic director Kevin Anderson, "and we're excited to continue that legacy."