Ghosts at a groundbreaking? Ravens stadium: A dozen years of betrayal, anger and frustration exorcised with a shovel.

July 24, 1996

ON AN expanse of asphalt south of Oriole Park, ground was broken yesterday for the Ravens' football home at Camden Yards. With a podium for speeches and a multi-headed shovel to allow several dignitaries a first stab at the earth, the scene was not unlike that at other ceremonies to launch huge public works.

But this particular ground-breaking was also freighted with emotions built up over a dozen years of NFL-less autumn Sundays in Baltimore. Perhaps the whoosh was coming from traffic up on Interstate 395 or the whisper from the passing light-rail cars, but it could as easily have been football ghosts.

An indelible image: Moving vans sneaking off the Baltimore Colts in the dead of night.

Maryland Stadium Authority Chairman John Moag, the architect of the deal that brought Art Modell's football team from Cleveland to Baltimore, said all the right things. Most important, he paid tribute to his predecessor, Herb Belgrad, who toiled fruitlessly without the NFL's support.

Fans camping out one bitter January night for exhibition game tickets in a worthless gesture of commitment to the NFL.

Pettiness kept William Donald Schaefer from being given a seat on the stage yesterday. But when his name was mentioned, the former governor, standing at the rear of the crowd, was given a great ovation in recognition of his foresight in preparing the stadium financing.

Football commissioner Paul Tagliabue announcing Charlotte and Jacksonville as expansion choices, telling Baltimore it should take its money elsewhere.

In two years, a 68,400-seat glass and brick bowl will rise from that parking lot. Gov. Parris N. Glendening pointed out that 54,000 season tickets have already been sold.

Football ghosts in leather helmets? They may well have swirled over yesterday's ground-breaking. But with the Ravens in Westminster, training for their coming season at Memorial Stadium, and the new park now under way, Marylanders who have anxiously awaited the return of the NFL had nothing to fear anymore.

Pub Date: 7/24/96

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