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With Patriot Point, Military Bowl Organizers Are Committed To Helping Veterans Off The Field

May 16, 2016
For the organizations that run college football bowl games, it isn't always about the bowl game.

The DC Bowl Committee, the group that has put on the Military Bowl since 2008, works with the USO and Under Armour to put on youth football clinics and events and supports the Bill Phillips Memorial Fund, which assists college athletes and military members affected by tragic circumstances.

But in April, the DC Bowl Committee made one of its biggest moves: Closing on the $2.3 million purchase of 290 acres of land in Dorchester County that it has renamed Patriot Point, a retreat for wounded service members and their families.

At Patriot Point, service members will be able to hunt, fish, crab, swim and boat. The property features 2.3 miles of waterfront along Parsons Creek, Slaughters Creek and the Little Choptank River, southwest of Cambridge, Md.

"To be able to be in the position to do this sort of thing, it's really exciting," Military Bowl president and executive director Steve Beck said. "We've been looking for something to get personally involved in. Not that writing checks to military charities isn't exciting."

The DC Bowl Committee formed a nonprofit, Patriot Point LLC DC Bowl Committee Inc., to purchase the property from the estate of James Bugg. In the just-completed legislative session, the Maryland General Assembly approved $500,000 in capital funding, which will help with improvements on the property, including handicap access.

Eagle Bank, which was the title sponsor of the Military Bowl in its first two years of existence, is providing the financing for the project.

Beck said he heard last summer that the property, which was then known as "Poverty Point," might be available after Bugg's death. Bugg, chairman of the Yellow Ribbon Fund, had used the property as a "semi-Wounded Warrior retreat," Beck said.

A friend of Bugg's, Stuart Plank, approached Beck about the project. Plank and the Taishoff Family Foundation are listed as the "founding partners" of Patriot Point.

"We just thought we would take [Bugg's] concept and beef it up a little bit and make it into a full-time retreat center for wounded servicemen," Beck said.

"I have talked with soldiers who have been down there," Beck added. "It changed their life. I thought this is something that we could get behind."

Beck, though, said he is not an outdoorsman.

"That's the funny thing about it," he said. "I don't know what the heck I'm doing."

Said Plank, brother of Under Armour founder Kevin Plank: "It's very exciting. It's something that kind of just fell together.

"I didn't see it getting this much traction this fast. For a while it was just an idea, and now it's become a reality. And since it's become a reality, a lot of people have circled around us and supported it."

On the property are a four-bedroom main house, a six-bedroom guesthouse, and a barn and a caretaker's house that both need to be either remodeled or torn down, Beck said.

The main house was built in 1926 by silent movie actress Clara Bow, who owned the property before Bugg and reportedly threw wild parties with bootleg alcohol that was brought in by boat during Prohibition. The guesthouse was built about 10 years ago. 

Beck said an architect is doing a master plan for the property, pro bono.

"We have so many dreams," Beck said. "There are about 80 to 100 acres of wetlands, 2.3 miles of shoreline. We want to protect the shoreline and preserve and protect the wetlands.

"We also want to build an eight-bedroom, 16-bed house," he said. "Then we could bring 25 to 30 veterans down there."

Said Plank, who is a developer of single-family homes in the Washington suburbs: "We're just working on a theme to kind of tie all the properties together. There are some older buildings that probably need to go. We've got to re-do the barn and the caretaker's house. For the long-term plan, our dream is build a nice lodge with a huge great room, and six or eight hotel rooms in it so that we can serve a lot of people."

So Beck will now go back to doing all the things that an executive director of a bowl game does during the "offseason."

"A lot of times, people will ask what I do for a living, and I'll say I'm the director of the Military Bowl, and then they'll say, ‘What else do you do? That can't be all of it,' Beck joked.

"But last month, we had the DC Touchdown Club awards dinner, and we have a golf tournament coming up in June to benefit the Bill Phillips Memorial Fund."

And by that time, planning for December's ninth annual Military Bowl should be well underway.

Issue 221: May 2016