- Associated Press - Thursday, April 6, 2017

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - Maryland first hosted the annual Army-Navy football game in 1891, and then again in 1893. The hotly contested 1893 contest, played in Annapolis, nearly ended with a duel between an Army general and a Navy Admiral.

The game, which Navy won, resulted in a five-game break in the contest, the longest time between games in the history of the rivalry.

Maryland, which has hosted the game as recently as 2016 and a total of 10 times, is considering legislation that will allow it to bid to keep the game — and other sporting events — in a much more efficient fashion.

In other years, the game has been held in sites across the nation. Philadelphia is the game’s most common host and the only location west of the Mississippi to host is the Rose Bowl in Los Angeles.

The most recent round of bidding featured cities such as Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Boston, New York City, San Diego and Dallas.

The legislation, SB1148, proposed by Sen. Bill Ferguson, D-Baltimore, would allow Maryland to create a system where the state is allowed to create private-public partnerships in the form of non-profit limited liability corporations, Maryland Sports Executive Director Terry Hasseltine said.

In the past, all funding for these events had to come from the state, however with the creation of these corporations, the state can now accept philanthropic private donations.

“(These corporations) are not official instruments of the state, they are extensions of Maryland Sports so there is some oversight and guidance from the state and from Maryland Sports and the Maryland Stadium Authority,” he added.

Maryland Sports is an agency under the Maryland Stadium authority dedicated to attracting regional, national and international sporting events to Maryland.

This model, based off of the University of Maryland foundations system process, allows these corporations to accept private donations and raise money while removing liability from the state and Maryland Sports.

At the University of Maryland, there are foundations, separate from the athletic department, to raise money for sports, scholarships and the athletic department.

Currently, when planning for a bid, Maryland Sports is able to project all costs, however they may not start funding them until the fiscal year of the event.

This puts the state in a precarious situation, and means organizers have to scramble quickly — sometimes just a few months — to secure millions of dollars of funding.

Ferguson’s legislation would also change this.

“It allows us to build that financial, for lack of a better term, war chest over the course of multiple fiscal years versus having to take it out of one fiscal year,” Hasseltine told the University of Maryland’s Capital News Service. “(This) makes it less likely to be in a cash-negative environment because we have multiple years to build up the capital in which to deliver on the requirements of hosting an event like Army-Navy.”

In the past, Maryland has not had a problem appearing as an attractive destination, according to Army Executive Athletic Director Bob Beretta.

The West Point administrator said the two schools weigh a potential site’s financial considerations as well as its ability to host a premier event like the Army-Navy game and all the ancillary events that come with it.

“In the past, (Maryland has) met that criteria,” Beretta said, citing the two games played in Baltimore in the past three years.

The legislation will help the state with language enabling Maryland Sports to create these private-public partnerships. Because of this, his bill will help Maryland in bidding for future big athletic events, Ferguson said.

The “key issue,” according to Ferguson, is because Maryland Sports is part of a state agency it operates on an annual budget.

“To enter into a multi-year agreement with an international sports competition to be competitive, you have to be able to commit to multi-year hosting responsibilities,” he added.

In addition to allowing the state to take private donations, Ferguson’s bill would allow the Maryland Stadium Authority to spend up to $500,000 of its own non-budgeted funding — which is raised through events held by the organization — on the affiliate corporations.

State analysts project no fiscal impact from the bill, however both Hasseltine and Ferguson are confident the bill could actually result in a fiscal gain for the state.

“This is one of those bills that has zero fiscal impact on states, but the reward and the (return on investment) on this opportunity is limitless. And I say that because we are trying to strengthen our abilities to generate more visitors, more media exposure, more revenues for the state of Maryland,” Hasseltine said.

Hosting an event such as the Army-Navy game can generate “well over $10 million (in) economic impact,” Hasseltine said.

In the 2016 fiscal year, Maryland Sports and its partner TEAM Maryland, a collection of groups dedicated to marketing Maryland to the sports industry, “touched over 300 events generating over $176.6 million of direct spending on Maryland’s economy,” Hasseltine added.

These events include amateur, professional and international sporting events around the year. Ferguson said that he believes this legislation will help maximize the stadiums of both the Ravens and Orioles.

The bill will also save the state money because it allows the Maryland Stadium Authority to reduce its overhead cost by charging a “management fee” when it oversees events, Ferguson said.

Ferguson said he is confident the bill will pass, however on Thursday it was awaiting a recommendation vote from the House Appropriations Committee. In order to become law, the bill, which already passed unanimously through the Senate, must be passed by both chambers before the legislative session ends on Monday.

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