Ravens undecided on training camp site College wants team to return; decision may be made in fall


They came. They trained. They left. But will they come back?

After spending a month in Westminster to prepare for their first season as Baltimore's new NFL team, the Ravens left the city last week with no indication of whether they'll return.

Officials at Western Maryland College, which was host of the camp, have expressed willingness to enter into a long-term relationship with the Ravens, but team management said no decision has been reached about a permanent training camp site.

"The organization thought it was a very successful training camp, and the reception we received in Carroll County was wonderful," said Bob Eller, Ravens director of operations and information.

"In the very near future, we plan on getting together [with college officials] to discuss the training camp situation."

He said the team hopes to make a decision in the fall about next year's training camp site.

The Ravens' arrival in Westminster last month had local officials predicting that the practice sessions would attract hordes of fans eager to spend their money in local businesses. But the crowds were smaller than expected, and Westminster merchants reported only modest increases in sales.

Still, college and city officials consider the Ravens' visit a success and are optimistic about Westminster becoming the team's permanent summer home.

"[Ravens owner] Art Modell said he certainly would like to be back," said Thomas B. Beyard, Westminster's director of planning and public works. "I think it's a question of trying to reach an agreement to address the college's situation as well as the team's long-term needs."

Logistically, the Ravens' stay in Westminster couldn't have gone better, Beyard said. Satellite parking lots, shuttle buses and portable traffic-direction signs prevented parking and traffic-flow problems.

City officials estimated that between 500 and 800 people attended the team's two daily practice sessions. Weekend practice sessions drew between 1,500 to 1,800.

Local officials had expected as many as 2,000 spectators on weekdays and up to 5,000 on weekends.

"I know some people are disappointed, but it's probably a good thing that the crowds were a manageable size so we didn't impact the other programs at the college," said Ethan A. Seidel, Western Maryland's vice president for administration and finance. "I had a couple faculty members comment that they hardly knew the Ravens were here."

Beyard estimated that 20,000 fans came to see the Ravens practice at Western Maryland College. By comparison, the Washington Redskins' first training camp at Frostburg State University last summer attracted 35,000 visitors.

"I know people are saying the numbers aren't what we expected, but Frostburg had an established team with a following, and next year the Ravens will have a much larger following," said Barbara Beverungen, Carroll County's tourism administrator.

More than 9,700 people -- 300 to 500 a day -- visited the county's tourism booth at Western Maryland's campus during the training camp.

Beverungen said visitors were particularly interested in Cascade Lake in Hampstead, the International Gift Shop in New Windsor and Carroll County Farm Museum in Westminster.

"I can't tell you how many people said to me what a beautiful county this is," Beverungen said. "From a tourism standpoint, I can't stress enough what good it did for this county."

Seidel said college officials plan to review all aspects of the summer training camp, including parking and crowd control issues, condition of the sports facilities and concession sales.

"The biggest piece is housing and feeding over 100 people for five weeks," Seidel said. "We need to sit down and figure out what did it cost us to provide all those services and is it financially sensible.

"As far as a long-term relationship, sure, we'd like to have them [the Ravens] back," Seidel said. "We think it's good for the city and the county."

Although the Ravens' first training camp ran smoothly, several days of rain forced college officials to scramble to find practice locations for the team because the main gym had been reserved by other athletic programs, said Barry L. Bosley, the college's director of facilities management.

Eller said the team was aware that some conflicts couldn't be avoided because the Ravens didn't make a final decision on thesite until late spring.

If the team establishes a long-term partnership with the college, he said, scheduling problems could be avoided.

"We're more familiar with them, they're more familiar with us," Eller said. "There would not be as many conflicts in facilities use because we'd have more time to plan."

Pub Date: 8/23/96

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