Region ready for football frenzy Parking, shuttle buses in place for kickoff

July 16, 1996|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

The rooster has yielded to the raven on Westminster's Main Street, as the Carroll County seat anticipates a flock of fans for today's opening of summer training camp for Baltimore's new NFL team.

Is Westminster ready?

"We will be as ready as we can be when they come," vowed Thomas B. Beyard, Westminster's director of planning and public works and a key member of the Ravens Welcoming Committee.

The rookie players arrive today at Western Maryland College, to be joined in three days by the veterans.

"We do expect a large crowd [to watch] the rookies," said R. Douglas Mathias, executive director of Greater Westminster Development Corp. and a welcoming-committee member, "because it's the whole new team that's starting up."

Meanwhile, local officials can only wait and hope they've thought of everything.

Last week, the red-and-white checked rooster banners promoting the Farmers Market came off many of the city's lampposts -- temporarily -- to make way for the Ravens' flying-shield emblem. Large banners were hung across Main Street and on two Route 140 bridges on the approaches to town.

Welcoming-committee members have spent the past week ironing out parking and traffic flow, arranging shuttle-bus service and securing portable traffic-directing signs from the state.

Parking, traffic, that's the hard work: the details of getting people here," said Joyce E. Muller, director of public information at Western Maryland. "We don't want people to go out there and get angry."

The plan is to move traffic off northbound Route 140 into designated parking areas: in town on weekdays, and at Cranberry Mall on weekends.

"We expect a lot more people from the metropolitan area on weekends," Beyard said. These visitors are encouraged to use the 1,200 to 1,300 spaces at the mall on Route 140.

On the two weekends the Ravens practice in Westminster, he said, the Mass Transit Administration will provide bus service from the mall. An all-day pass will cost $3, and children under 12 will ride free. Three buses are expected to run, at 12- to 20-minute intervals, from about 8 a.m. until about 5 p.m.

Last week, the MTA made trial runs through town with a 250-passenger articulated bus -- one with accordion folds.

"It worked out real well," said Beyard. "They are very maneuverable -- even with the tight corners in Westminster."

The State Highway Administration will bring in portable signs to direct Ravens traffic along the designated route: from Route 140 to the exit ramp for Route 97 north, bearing left toward Westminster, then down Pennsylvania Avenue and left on Monroe Street to the parking areas.

Beyard said there should be enough in-town parking for the weekday visitors. About 1,000 spaces have been designated on Monroe Street at the site of the future Dutterer's Family Park, at West Middle School and at St. John Church (except Sundays).

A free shuttle bus will run weekdays from the parking areas to downtown stores, probably from about 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Beyard DTC said. The city and county plan to split the cost, $3,250 apiece, for the 26 days of camp.

"We can only guess the numbers," Muller said. "We used everyone's best guess as to how to handle transporting the fans."

The committee members expect Saturday to be the busiest day because it is the only weekend date with morning and afternoon sessions.

On weekdays, the Ravens will practice twice a day, from about 9 a.m. to 11: 30 a.m. and from about 2: 30 p.m. to 5 p.m.

The schedule for the team's two weekends on campus varies, with both morning and afternoon sessions Saturday, a morning session only July 27, and afternoon sessions only Sunday and July 28.

The Ravens have brought in bleacher seats for the practice field, Muller said. The stadium grandstand seats about 1,200, but it lies in a natural, grassy bowl that increases the seating to more than 4,000 "with lots of room to spread out on the hill with blankets and lawn chairs."

A formal welcoming ceremony with proclamations from the city, college and county is planned for Sunday afternoon's practice.

Downtown merchants have begun a window-decorating contest to be judged July 29, Mathias said. Although the response

appears to be slow, the purple-and-white "Welcome Ravens and their fans" posters now appear in almost every shop window.

"We want the families that come up here to have fun," Beyard said, "to see what Westminster is about, to see what Carroll County is about, and what Western Maryland College is about."

To that end, the college has publicized rules for Ravens fans, including a ban on pets and alcohol, and requiring "appropriate" behavior and dress.

By setting these rules, Muller said, "what we wanted to do was to promote a family atmosphere. That made this a success when the Colts were here."

"It's such a golden opportunity to promote your town," Beyard said. "And if you don't take advantage of it, then shame on you."

Pub Date: 7/16/96

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