Bowl game gets new sponsor

CHARLOTTE – Bank of America Stadium will continue to host a college football bowl game beyond this season, with a new but familiar name in the mix.

The game will be known as the Belk Bowl beginning in 2011, representatives from the Charlotte-based department store as well as from Charlotte Collegiate Football announced Tuesday.

Financial terms of the agreement, which runs through the 2013 game and coincides with the bowl's agreement with the Atlantic Coast and Big East conferences, were not released.

The ninth incarnation of the bowl, currently sponsored by Meineke Car Care, will pit Clemson against South Florida on Dec. 31.

"The magic of college football needs to be a part of Charlotte, and we're excited about being a part of making that happen," said Johnny Harris, chairman of Charlotte Collegiate Football. "None of this would be happening without (Panthers President) Danny (Morrison) and his team and (Panthers Owner) Jerry (Richardson) and the leadership of the Panthers organization.

"This is a great place to play football."

The game already appeared to be on its way up the bowl pecking order before Tuesday's announcement – right along with college football's presence in the Panthers' back yard. The bowl increased its payout for 2010 from $2 million to $3.4 million and will maintain that through the length of the new contract.

In addition, the bowl is seen as a vehicle that could help Charlotte secure a long-term partnership with the ACC Championship Game, which was held at Bank of America Stadium for the first time on Dec. 4 and is set to return in 2011.

Scott Paul, stadium operations manager for Bank of America Stadium, described both the bowl game – which has sold out in five of its first eight years – and the recent ACC title game as "home runs."

"For us, it's another chance to continue to build college football in this town," Paul said. "Being able to bring another great ACC institution here year in and year out will help our relationship with the ACC. It shows the ACC what type of environment they can have if they keep their championship game here, and that's our ultimate goal."

Charlotte Mayor Anthony R. Foxx estimated that the bowl has an annual economic impact of $25-30 million on the region, a number that could grow with the increased payout as well as the addition of Belk.

The nation's largest privately owned mainline department store company – with 305 stores in 16 states – Belk was founded by William Henry Belk in Monroe in 1888. His son, John Montgomery Belk, was a four-term Charlotte mayor from 1969-77.

"Belk is delighted to be the title sponsor and to build on a Charlotte tradition," said Tim Belk, nephew of the late John Montgomery Belk and the company's chairman and CEO. "College football is a big part of the Southern lifestyle, and it's also a nice fit with our geographic footprint and an opportunity to communicate our community involvement."

Tickets for this year's game, which will be broadcast on ESPN at noon on Dec. 31, are available at www.meinekecarcarebowl.com.

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