Looking for a dramatic, visual signature to Baltimore's downtown football stadium, state officials and the Ravens are seriously considering mounting a 40-foot-tall, $250,000 raven with glowing red eyes on top of the project.
The Maryland Stadium Authority approved on Thursday a contract to have a Rhode Island art fabrication firm build and mount the 4-ton bird over the stadium's entrance on the southwest corner.
The state hopes the team will pay for at least some of the job, possibly through a corporate sponsor.
Ravens executive vice president David Modell said the team is still considering the costs and benefits of the statue and may decide to delete or delay its construction. He said the Ravens would contribute toward the cost if they proceed with the plans, but he couldn't say how much.
"If the funding can be found and we do go ahead with it, I think it would be an extremely distinctive addition," Modell said.
The design calls for a raven in an attack mode -- claws out and wings partially extended -- that will look out over Russell Street during the week, but be rotated inward during games, peering through one of the notched corners of the stadium's upper deck. Its eyes would be illuminated with electric lights to glow red.
The team had hoped to keep the bird a secret until it could be unveiled next year, close to opening day at the new stadium. But word leaked out when the stadium authority approved the $253,810 contract on Thursday.
Stadium authority chairman John Moag said he hopes the team will be able to pay at least the difference between the final cost and the original estimate of $200,000.
"You can look at any piece of a stadium and wonder whether this or that was necessary. But to be compatible with Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the stadium has to have architectural finishes," Moag said.
"I think it's going to be awesome," Moag said.
State Sen. Christopher Van Hollen Jr., a Montgomery County Democrat and an opponent of the stadium project, said he didn't know enough about the giant bird to comment, but hoped a minimum of public funds would be necessary.
"I think that they should certainly pursue private funding for a $250,000 bird on top of the stadium," Van Hollen said.
Artist Jo Schneider created the design, which will be fabricated in Bristol, R.I., by Merrifield-Roberts Inc. Among the company's past projects are a 50-foot-long spoon displayed outside an art museum in Minneapolis and a 20-foot-tall shuttlecock outside a museum in Kansas City, Mo.
"It's an exciting project and we're glad to be on board," said Kim Roberts, vice president of the firm.
He said the bird will be made of several types of metal, but mostly aluminum, and will be black and purple. The top of its head will be 140 feet above the ground.
Jim Bailey, Ravens executive vice president/administrative and legal, said: "It's something that we would like to see done, but from my view it's still on the consideration table.
"The whole stadium is a work in progress and things are added and shuffled around," Bailey said.
The stadium is on pace to cost $220 million, $20 million more than projected last year. The team is contributing $10 million this year and the equivalent of another $2 million later. It also has paid the state $10 million for the right to resell the name of the facility to a corporate sponsor.
The bulk of the stadium funding will come from tax-exempt bonds issued by the stadium authority and paid back through stadium ticket taxes, instant lottery games and contributions from the city.
Next for Ravens
Opponent: Miami Dolphins
Site: Memorial Stadium
When: Tomorrow, 4 p.m.
TV/Radio: Ch. 11/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)
Line: Dolphins by 1 1/2
Series: First meeting
Pub Date: 10/18/97