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2003 game to be played in Philadelphia
Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA -- Instead of the tradition-shrouded Army-Navy football game, Philadelphia will get a hematology convention in 2002, tourism officials say.

The city has hosted the Army-Navy contest for most of the centurylong rivalry and the 2002 game was to be in Philadelphia under a 12-year contract calling for the city to host at least nine games in that period.

But the academies are now seeking another site after Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau officials recently discovered that the American Society of Hematology had booked about 8,000 of the city's 10,000 hotel rooms on the same weekend as the game.

Teams, broadcasters and fans typically use about 5,000 hotel rooms during the Army-Navy game weekend. And Tom Muldoon, the head of the convention bureau, said CBS, which televises the games, vetoed tourism officials' efforts to move the game from Dec. 7, 2002, to another date.

He said the schools rejected proposals to put fans up in outlying hotels and shuttle them to the game, as the city did with those attending the 2000 Republican Convention last summer.

The academies instead agreed to extend the contract and play the 2003 game in Philadelphia, he said.

The Army-Navy rivalry returns to Philadelphia this year after being played in Baltimore last year, for the first time since 1944. Navy avoided a winless season by edging Army 30-28 in the Dec. 2 game.

Muldoon acknowledged that the scheduling mix-up may set back the city's efforts to sign a new long-term contract with the schools after 2003.

"I think, realistically, that we have some fences to mend," he said.

One possible bright side, he said, is that extending the contract to 2003 means the two schools will get to play in a new Eagles stadium expected to be open by then. Officials hope the new stadium will make the academies more interested in another long-term agreement.

Philadelphia boosters say tradition is on their side. The first Army-Navy game was played in Philadelphia, on Dec. 2, 1899, at the University of Pennsylvania's Franklin Field. The city has hosted the game 75 times since then.

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