The Baltimore Ravens and Western Maryland College announced an agreement yesterday for the return of the football team's summer training camp through 2001.
The five-year deal includes improvements to fields and facilities at the campus in Westminster, with the National Football League Ravens paying about two-thirds of the cost.
"Obviously, we must have been happy here a year ago," team owner Art Modell said during a news conference in the college's gymnasium with Western Maryland President Robert H. Chambers, Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda and college and team officials.
"A year ago, we were in a state of limbo," Modell said. "We could not go back to Cleveland [and] we were enjoined from setting up in Baltimore. The first order of business was to find a summer home to train."
The Ravens marked the return of pro football to the Carroll County campus: The Baltimore Colts trained there from 1949 to 1971.
Modell praised the college and "the people in Westminster."
"We expect a little more excitement at camp this year," he said, and "significantly larger crowds. Last year, people didn't know what to expect."
The capital improvements for the team will cost about $250,000, said Robert F. Eller, Ravens director of operations and information. These include:
Construction to expand the college-owned Comfort Inn to better accommodate meals and to provide meeting rooms.
Improvements to the laundry, locker and training rooms, with installation of ceiling fans, electric outlets and ice machines.
Construction of a new field for use by the college's summer camp participants, which will allow the Ravens exclusive use of two practice fields and Bair Stadium.
"The improvements are being mostly done to the benefit of the Ravens, so we felt it's only fair that we pick up the larger share of the cost," Eller said.
Although the first training camp last summer generally ran smoothly for the team, several days of rain had college officials scrambling to find practice locations.
The main gymnasium had been reserved by summer camps and other athletic programs before the football team came to roost.
City officials estimated that 500 to 800 people attended the team's twice-daily practice sessions, while weekend practices drew 1,500 to 1,800 spectators.
They had expected -- with some trepidation -- up to 2,000 on weekdays and 5,000 on weekends.
Downtown merchants generally expressed disappointment afterward that the crowds at the campus -- or the players -- didn't travel down Main Street.
But all in all, "we think we did pretty good -- because we didn't get too many people in any one place," said R. Douglas Mathias, executive director of the Greater Westminster Development Corp.
"There were no traffic tie-ups, like we feared, no accidents, and people did get around on the [shuttle] buses," he said. "The county tourism booth had many, many people stop for information.
"We know that the longer they're here, the more successful the relationship will become."
The summer training camp runs from mid-July to mid-August with practices open to the public at no charge.
Dates for the 1997 camp will be announced by late June, after the NFL preseason schedule is set.
Asked about the the team's regular training facility in Owings Mills, Modell called it "inadequate" -- especially compared with his previous state-of-the-art facility in Berea, Ohio -- and said they eventually will be looking for a new site.
"Right now we're split," he said, with players and team officials at the leased Baltimore City police training property in Owings Mills, and other offices in downtown Baltimore.
"Our ultimate plan is to build something not too far out of town," the owner said. "I don't think it will be this far out, for our daily needs."
Pub Date: 3/19/97