In a curious blending of sports and academia, Western Maryland College welcomed the Baltimore Ravens to campus yesterday, with Buddy Holly's "Rave On" as background music and readings from Edgar Allan Poe's poem, "The Raven."
At a news conference that seemed more like a pep rally, college and county officials thanked the team's management for selecting the campus as the site of its first summer training camp and talked of an enduring partnership with the Ravens.
The team has agreed to a one-year-contract with Western Maryland to hold its training camp there from July 10 through Aug. 15.
"The coming of the Ravens is a boon for both town and gown," college President Robert Chambers told the crowd of about 200 on hand to greet the Ravens, including local business leaders and college students.
"Western Maryland wants this to be a long-term relationship," Chambers said. "If we aren't married or even engaged, we do think we're going steady."
But Ravens management made it clear they are not in any rush to tie the knot.
"We'd like to get comfortable with each other," said Bob Eller, team director of operations and information. "The most important thing is to see how it works this year."
He said more immediate concerns for the Ravens include working out the details of ticket sales and developing a team logo.
Eller said Ravens management has not begun to look seriously at locations for permanent headquarters. For the next two years, he said the team will maintain its staff at the current Owings Mills and Baltimore sites.
"We have not addressed the permanent facilities issue," he said.
Ravens representatives preferred to discuss their plans for this summer. The team's arrival in town continues a tradition started by the Baltimore Colts, who trained at Western Maryland from 1949 to 1971.
"Training camp is where careers begin, where a football team is put together," said Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens director of football operations and a former Cleveland Browns player.
"We want to look back at this day as the start of the goal we want to achieve of getting to the Super Bowl," he said.
officials estimate that the Ravens encampment in Westminster this summer will mean an additional $2 million to $3 million for the local economy. They are hoping that the influx of media and the fans who come to watch practices and seek autographs also will patronize local businesses.
Seidel, Western Maryland's vice president for administration and finance and the lead negotiator with the Ravens, said the college will have to make substantial improvements to its facilities to secure a long-term contract with the football team.
This summer the college plans improvements to the playing fields, where the Ravens will hold two daily practices open to the public, and Bair Stadium field where the team will play on weekends. College officials plan to add one parking lot and expand other lots.
"Parking is our biggest problem," Seidel said. "I can't imagine the solution isn't going to involve satellite parking on days with large crowds."
Jack Lyburn, county economic development director, said that county and Westminster officials plan to meet next week with college administrators to discuss the Ravens' future at Western Maryland.
"We're going to talk about what we can do to encourage a long-term lease," Lyburn said.
Pub Date: 5/10/96