The Army-Navy game has seen its fair share of venues.
It’s been played in multiple stadiums in the City of Brotherly Love, with Philadelphia having hosted the game 89 times. It’s been played on the Polo Grounds, Giants Stadium, and Yankee Stadium. It’s been held at both Service Scademies three times apiece. It’s also been played in Baltimore six times. And there were the single occasions the game was played at Soldier Field in Chicago and the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. But what if the location of the Citrus Bowl and NFL Pro Bowl got a chance at hosting the Service Scademy rivalry and greatest event in sports?
Steve Hogan, Florida Citrus Sports CEO, expressed interest in Orlando, Florida hosting the match-up in an interview with the Orlando Sentinel, saying, “The Army-Navy game would be an experience for people in Central Florida and the people who have traditionally attended the game in Philadelphia or Baltimore.”
Florida Citrus Sports has hosted the Citrus Bowl and the Camping World Bowl at Camping World Stadium in Orlando in recent years. The venue has a moderately hefty 65,000 seat capacity and even held some soccer preliminaries for the 1996 Summer Olympics and multiple matches for the 1994 World Cup, but what’s the true appeal for Army-Navy?
Sure, Service Academy graduates come from all across the country for the game, but the connection for the general public doesn’t always stretch as far outside of Annapolis or the banks of the Hudson. Yet the game is one nearly every college football fan’s bucket list, so perhaps moving it to a location further south could allow some more people to truly appreciate the game for what it is? The Army-Navy game has never been as far south as Orlando and while it’s not exactly middle ground between either academies, picturing the game at Camping World Stadium could make “America’s Game” more inviting for fans who aren’t directly tied to either institution.
Enter Tourism. Orlando is one of the larger metropolitan cities in the country and the most visited destination in the U.S. In 2018, the city boasted 75 million visitors. Add in Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Studios and swamp tours (if you’re into that sort of thing) and it could seem like the perfect partnership.
The rivalry isn’t only fun, but it’s profitable. Navy’s 9-2 ranking going into last year’s match-up definitely didn’t hurt ticket pricing either. According to Philadelphia Business Journal, Army-Navy fans were expected to generate $30 million for the city with an overwhelming majority of fans coming from outside of Pennsylvania.
Recruiting could also be a potential plus. Army’s 2020 class features five Tampa Bay locals (yes, I know Tampa is an hour and then some from Orlando), but it’s no secret the sunshine state has in recent years produced college football greats, and is a huge recruiting spot for both Army and Navy. The Mids carried five players from Florida on their roster this past season.
In its most recent years, fans know the Army-Navy game to be played in Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, but that wasn’t always the case. In 2018, the bidding war was open for the Army-Navy game and a number of locations — including Texas, Pittsburgh and Seattle — were in the running to land it.
However, with Philly being about three hours from West Point and two hours from Annapolis, the logistics of putting teams on a bus for 12 to 16-plus hours to travel down south seems like large logistical undertaking. Those challenges could be what ultimately prevents the game from taking its show on the road in the future.
Currently, Philadelphia is scheduled to host this year, with MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. being the host in 2021 (coinciding with the 20th anniversary of 9/11) and then with the game returning to Philadelphia in 2022.
“It would be the first time since going somewhere like Pasadena in the 1980s if you would be able to secure a game like that,” Hogan told the Sentinel. “Now is the time for us.”
Beyond 2022, the game is wide open for potential hosting bids beginning with the game in 2023.
The AAE team floated the idea around and thought if the Service Academy win included a parade in the Magic Kingdom the next day, with the game’s MVP given the chance to say “I’m going to Disney World!” on national TV, something akin to the Super Bowl, then you just may have our support.
But we want to know, what do you think about the possibility of the Army-Navy game stretching its legs beyond Philly, New York and Baltimore in the near future and heading down to Orlando? Or is there somewhere else you think ought to really be in the running for America’s Game?