Thursday, Aug. 9, 2007

Bowie State set to host another Classic

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The Prince George’s Classic will return to Bowie State University this year as Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association rivals Bowie State and St. Paul’s College will meet Sept. 29 at Bulldog Stadium.

While events surrounding the fourth annual game were announced Tuesday, organizers already have an eye on 2008.

The University of Maryland’s Byrd Stadium could be the site for the fifth Prince George’s Classic. Morris A. ‘‘Mike” Little, president of Prince George’s Classic Inc., rated the likelihood the game moving to College Park next year a ‘‘7” on a scale of 10.

‘‘They were interested in us coming this year, but we had already worked out the date and teams,” said Little. ‘‘We’re interested in a long-term opportunity where we’re looking to secure our dates and be in a better planning position.”

After sparse crowds and poor weather stymied the game’s first two years at 92,000-seat FedEx Field in Landover, Classic organizers moved the contest to Bowie State’s home field, drawing an estimated crowd of nearly 10,000 last September to see Bowie State against North Carolina Central. An additional 5,000 temporary bleachers were added to Bulldog Stadium, which normally seats 3,500. The first two games at FedEx Field matched Howard University against Alcorn State in 2004 and Morgan State against North Carolina A&T in 2005.

Little wasn’t sure how many seats would be added this year ‘‘depending on the response.” Hubert ‘‘Petey” Green, president of the Prince George’s Black Chamber of Commerce, said Bowie State officials immediately offered to host again after last year’s contest.

‘‘It was important to go back to Bowie State because Bowie State is Prince George’s HBCU [historically black colleges and universities]. That’s been our focus to take care of our local HBCUs,” said Green. ‘‘We started off with Howard University, then Morgan State.”

Little said last year’s Classic ‘‘broke even” after losses the first two years. Organizers spent approximately $500,000 on last year’s game and related events.

The inaugural event in 2004 cost $1.7 million to produce, but lost about $750,000. In 2005, $800,000 was spent to present the game, and lost roughly $375,000.

Bowie State will receive gate and concession proceeds as part of the deal with the Classic. Bowie State Athletic Director Derek Carter said tickets would be $20 for general admission and $12 for students.

Green and Little have said that while turning a profit was not a priority, the Classic could not sustain another year of big losses. The main objective for the organizers has been making the game a promotional vehicle for the county.

‘‘It really is about branding Prince George’s County with a positive cultural event that our citizens enjoy, as well creating opportunities for our local businesses,” said Little. ‘‘It’s not just the quality of teams that play the game, it’s the kind of social and cultural event you build in the big picture.”

Events surrounding the game will include a golf tournament at Enterprise Golf Course in Mitchellville (Sept. 27), a welcome reception (Sept. 27) and fashion show (Sept. 29) at the Greenbelt Marriott, a high school band competition at the University of Maryland’s Comcast Center (Sept. 28), a step show at Prince George’s Community College (Sept. 29) and services at Ebenezer AME Church in Fort Washington (Sept. 30).

Many of the bigger games are played at NFL stadiums, and Prince George’s Classic officials want to eventually return to FedEx Field, home of the Washington Redskins. Little and Green are hoping to reach an arrangement with Maryland before this year’s game.

‘‘It actually seems to be the size we think is a reasonable growth pattern for the next five years,” said Little, referring to Byrd Stadium.

‘‘I think the ability to stay alive the first five years and not lose your shirt while trying to build the concept is the idea,” Little continued. ‘‘I can recall when we first started this, many people had not heard about the Prince George’s Classic even after the first year. Now, it’s difficult to find someone in Prince George’s that hasn’t heard of the game.”

E-mail Derek Toney at dtoney@gazette.net.

Prince George’s Classic

When: Sept. 29, 2 p.m.

Where: Bulldog Stadium, Bowie State University

What: Bowie State vs. St. Paul’s, CIAA football game

Tickets: $12 for students, $20 for general admission

Information:www.princegeorgesclassic.com

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