Fort Worth’s annual bowl game is switching title sponsors but maintaining its strong ties with a military theme.Organizers announced Lockheed Martin, a leader in the defense industry, as title sponsor of the Armed Forces Bowl under a three-year agreement through the 2016 game. The first Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl will be played in December at Amon G. Carter Stadium, with an exact date and time to be announced in April.Financial terms of the new deal were not released Friday, and Lockheed Martin officials have an option to extend their stay as title sponsor beyond the initial three-year window.The fit is a good one, said executive director Brant Ringler, for a bowl with a long history of honoring the armed forces community and inviting the service academies as participants.The Armed Forces Bowl, heading into its 12th season, is the lone postseason contest that has hosted all three academies, with Navy defeating Middle Tennessee State 24-6 in last year’s game. “We are absolutely thrilled to have Lockheed Martin on board as the title sponsor of our event,” Ringler said. “Their deep commitment to the armed services is a perfect fit with everything our bowl stands for.”Lockheed Martin, a global security and aerospace company that employs roughly 115,000 workers worldwide, replaces Bell Helicopter, the game’s title sponsor the past eight years. Although headquartered in Bethesda, Md., Lockheed Martin has strong ties to North Texas.Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, headquartered in Fort Worth, employs roughly 12,500 in production and support of aircraft used by the U.S. and allied military services. Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, headquartered in Grand Prairie, manufactures missile defense systems, tactical missiles, militarized ground vehicles and other systems. It employs roughly 2,700 at its Grand Prairie location.Ringler said Bell Helicopter, also a Fort Worth-based leader in the defense industry, will remain affiliated with the bowl in a lesser sponsorship role.Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said she welcomes continuing the military theme in the city’s annual bowl game.“Fort Worth has always been a military town and always will be a military town,” Price said. “We love our military families. For Lockheed to step up now and take over just means another another Fort Worth company realizes the value of doing this to support our men and women who are serving our country.”Lockheed executives at Friday’s news conference characterized the move into the title sponsor’s role as an easy decision for the corporation.In a statement, Lockheed Martin chairman, president and CEO Marillyn Hewson said officials were intrigued because the bowl “promotes recruiting for tomorrow’s armed forces, provides needed support for wounded warriors, and recognizes the selfless service of our veterans from every branch of service. These are missions that we believe are important and are proud to support.”Existing agreements provide opportunities for Army, Navy and Air Force to return to Fort Worth in contests the next six seasons to face potential opponents from the Big 12 and Big Ten conferences. Army is locked into a berth in the 2014 and 2017 games as long as the Black Knights meet minimum bowl requirements in those seasons.Air Force, a Mountain West member, will be in the mix to represent that league in the 2015 and 2019 games. Navy, which joins the American Athletic Conference for the 2015 season, is slated to play in the 2016 game (pending qualification) and could also return in 2018.
Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @Jimmy_Burch