Ravens announce plans for $35 million M&T; Bank Stadium upgrades

The four new LED boards will give Ravens' fans constant updates of out-of-town scores and fantasy football stats, along with different vantage points on replays. Two new high-definition boards will greet those who enter M&T; Bank Stadium from Gates A or D, showing live game broadcasts and Ravens' highlights.

The lower concourse will have a completely new look with open-kitchen styled concession stands, expanded team retail stores, wood and steel columns and purple lighting. The upper concourse will undergo a similar transformation one year later.

The improvements are part of a $35 million renovation of M&T; Bank Stadium, Ravens team president Dick Cass and the team unveiled Thursday. The project, which will begin in the next seven to 10 days, will feature two phases. The first one, focusing on the lower concourse and video boards, is scheduled to be completed before the Ravens' 2013-14 preseason home opener in August. The second phase, which will be on the upper concourse, should be done in time for the start of the 2014-15 season.

"We are really trying to make our stadium more vibrant, more welcoming, and just a better game-day experience for our fans," Cass said.

Cass said that the organization will assume most of the project's $35 million price tag. However, the Ravens have asked the Maryland Stadium Authority to assume a "small portion" of the cost, stemming from the installation of new directional signage throughout the stadium. ARAMARK, which runs the concessions at the stadium, also will contribute some money in exchange for the team extending the agreement with them for several years.

"As the years go on, we'll be making other changes as well," Cass said. "It's a never-ending process. We've been spending $4 to $5 million a year on average since [owner] Steve Bisciotti took control of the stadium and the team in 2004. This is a bigger step than that but I don't anticipate any slow down."

Cass acknowledged that the project will be under a "very tight" schedule, but those involved are comfortable that the first phase will get done in time for the Ravens' preseason opener.

The first order of business will be the re-design of all 16 lower concourse concession stands. The new open concessions will allow customers to watch their order as it is prepared, along with providing digital menu boards, more space, better equipment and refurbished condiment stands.

The concourse renovation also will include wrapping the current concrete support columns in brick and adding purple uplighting and enhanced signage. Cass and Ravens vice president of stadium operations Roy Sommerhof said that the idea behind the plan was to add the brick and steel elements of Camden Yards into the interior of M&T; Bank Stadium.

"What we've done in bringing the brick and the steel inside the building really will warm the building up but also … give a sense of the Camden Yards experience inside the stadium," said Sommerhof, who has been leading the planning of the project for about a year. "You're going to know that you're in Ravens' country when you step inside the stadium. There will be an awful lot of purple."

At gates A and D two of the of the most popular entrances for the stadium, two high-definition video boards, measuring 8- feet high and 30-feet wide, will be installed and will be visible for fans entering the stadium. The boards will have split-screen capabilities and show a variety of content, from out-of-town games to welcome messages.

Inside the stadium, four new LED boards will then be added on each side of the two giant "RavensVision" video boards. They will be used to provide scores, statistics and different replays. New LED ribbon boards will also be put in to connect around the middle seating bowl.

"In today's NFL, you can't have a game-day experience and not cover fantasy football, out of town [scores] and all of the red-zone highlights," said Ravens vice president of broadcasting Larry Rosen. "We want to take care of that across the board for you. But we also think creatively you'll be able to see some really engaging, involving shot sequences that [gives] the visual experience in the [seating] bowl a whole different look. We want to give fans stuff here that they can't get at home. "