WMC awaiting Ravens' decision College vies to be team's summer home

April 19, 1996|By Lisa T. Hill | Lisa T. Hill,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Western Maryland College officials expect to know within a week whether the Baltimore Ravens football team will establish its summer training camp at the Westminster campus.

No one has calculated the potential financial impact for the city and Carroll if WMC wins the competition for the National Football League team with Towson State University, but local merchants are optimistic.

"We are really excited at the thought of more people coming to town at a time when downtown Westminster is having a comeback, when merchants are returning to Main Street," said Sandy Scott, co-chairwoman of Westminster Business Association.

Ms. Scott, an owner of the Hickory Stick country store, said she believes Westminster's quaint and friendly atmosphere will impress visitors and keep them coming back.

Ravens owner Art Modell and team officials were in Westminster yesterday to look over the playing fields, dining hall, classrooms and sports facilities.

"I think they really like it," said Robert Chambers, college president. "Modell made it clear he wants to be at a place where people can get close to his players, to see they are real people with personalities. I think that's a good attitude on his part."

Dr. Chambers said Ravens officials especially liked the stadium with its grassy hills, ideal for spectators to relax and enjoy weekend practices and scrimmages that would be open to the public.

Bob Eller, the Ravens operations and information director, said team officials thought the college's "facilities were fantastic -- definitely NFL caliber." He said that because the team started late in its search, there will be some "juggling of schedules" with children's summer camps, sports camps and other activities at either Towson State or Western Maryland.

Dr. Chambers said the college would be able to honor its commitments to 43 summer programs and still accommodate the Ravens this summer.

County Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown said the Ravens would mean several million dollars a year in revenue for restaurants, stores, motels and other businesses in Carroll.

"There's an emotional impact, too. It adds to the feeling that this is a community with spirit," Mr. Brown said. "I think we have a very attractive site here."

Colleen Peterson, an associate vice president at Frostburg State University, said when the Washington Redskins moved there from Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., last summer, officials projected that the influx of the media and other visitors would generate between $3 million and $4 million a year for the area, including Allegany and Garrett counties, part of Washington County and bordering areas of Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

"This has been wonderful publicity for our area," Ms. Peterson said. "We have really forged a fine relationship with the Redskins."

Her advice for the area the Ravens choose: Work to make the team very community-oriented. "What's really going to make a ++ difference is if the team has the spirit of the community with them," Ms. Peterson said.

"It will be very interesting for the small town of Westminster since the Ravens have generated a lot of talk on the radio and TV,"

said Lou Chang, owner of Ain't That a Frame.

Western Maryland officials say the move would be a publicity boon to the college, as well.

"This would help with the constant struggle of where we're located due to our misleading name. People think we are actually located in the western part of Maryland," said Marty O'Connell, WMC's admissions director. "With the added publicity, more people would see our proximity to Baltimore."

Ms. O'Connell said having the Ravens at WMC would help attract students from Maryland, Pennsylvania and Northern Virginia.

"It is important to me to continue the tradition started by having the Colts here," said Dr. Chambers. The Colts, Baltimore's former NFL team, held camp at WMC until 1971 and were contracted to return to the college when they moved to Indianapolis in 1983.

Dr. Chambers said WMC's close proximity to Ravens headquarters in Owings Mills could be a plus. But, he added, Ravens officials must decide whether they want to set up camp closer to Baltimore.

Pub Date: 4/19/96

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