The Fight Hunger Bowl will end a 12-year run at AT&T Park with its final appearance in San Francisco on Dec. 27, and with the game’s profile set to receive an upgrade next year, moving the game to the 49ers’ new stadium in Santa Clara next year comes at an ideal time.
Washington and Brigham Young will face off in a matchup of 8-4 teams that bowl executive director Gary Cavalli said may be the best pairing the game has had. Next year is likely to see that bar raised again, however.
Moving forward, the Fight Hunger Bowl will have the Pac-12 Conference’s fourth selection instead of the current sixth choice. In addition, the bowl will be getting a team from the Big Ten Conference instead of the independent teams it has invited the past few years, setting up a “Rose Bowl North” of sorts.
The shift is a notable one for a game that has not followed the same path as many new bowls that have been introduced over the past decade or two.
“Bowl games have evolved over the years to where a lot of them are being founded these days by TV networks to provide content or by conferences to make sure that there’s enough bowl games for all their teams that are bowl-eligible,” Cavalli said. “Ours was kind of the old formula of bringing two deserving teams into a great city to promote tourism in The City, fill hotel beds in The City, make use of the city’s resources and give the players a fantastic experience.”
He said that goal will not change with the move south, as the teams will still stay near Union Square, still visit Alcatraz and still volunteer with Glide Memorial Church and St. Anthony’s on Christmas Day as part of the Fight Hunger Initiative.
The move to Levi’s Stadium is one born more on the appeal of playing in a state-of-the art football stadium instead of making compromises and adjustments to play in a baseball park.
While Cavalli called AT&T Park the best baseball stadium in the world, he said staying there wasn’t in the Fight Hunger Bowl’s best interests.
“We had to take a look at where we wanted the game to be,” he said. “What was going to be required and what the conferences around the country were looking for, and it was clear we had to be in a big football stadium just to survive and to flourish in the future.”
The parting with the Giants organization will not be a bitter one, as team president Larry Baer will toss the pregame coin and a ceremony will be held honoring all the Giants employees who have worked on the game over the past 12 years.
In the meantime, Cavalli said he is proud to have established a legacy of being able to accomplish something that most thought they couldn’t in having a major bowl game in The City.
He said the game has had an economic impact of about $10 million per year, and about $140 million over 12 years. Much of that impact will continue with the teams continuing to stay in San Francisco.