Raven sculpture might not fly As opposed to Moag, club takes wait-and-see stance

March 27, 1998|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Ravens executive vice president David Modell said yesterday that he doubts a 40-foot raven sculpture will be perched atop the club's new stadium when it opens this fall.

The proposed sculpture has become a point of dispute between the Ravens and John Moag, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority.

Moag believes the sculpture could be movable and would be a signature look for blimp TV shots during games at the $220 million stadium.

Modell insisted that he's not against the sculpture idea, but said that other fan amenities are more important.

The Ravens have the call because funds for the sculpture aren't in the stadium authority's budget. Moag's original projected cost was $250,000, but Modell believes it will cost $500,000.

Moag said the cost may have escalated because the sculpture wasn't put up when the stadium was being topped off.

Modell, meanwhile, said the stadium's brick exterior will be a signature in itself, without the sculpture.

"It's so different from other new stadiums in its look and feel and where it fits in the Camden Yards complex and all the rest of that. It's quite cool," Modell said. "Coming from Memorial Stadium, I'm not sure [fans] fully realize how great this stadium is in terms of all its amenities."

Modell, son of team owner Art Modell, concedes that the sculpture idea is popular with fans, but he wants to find out if they'll still think it's important once they attend games.

Moag remains a strong supporter of the idea, but he said he doesn't want to debate the idea in public and declined comment. He plans to meet again with Modell on the issue in the near future.

Modell, who was added to the NFL's stadium committee this week, said, "We want to make sure all the important fan amenities and services are top-notch before we start worrying about some of the extra dressing outside the stadium.

"We all love the idea of the bird, but the idea is trying to make sure our customers are going to get serviced at the level they expect to be serviced before we start worrying about the bird."

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.

Modell said he was impressed with the design and didn't rule out putting it up for the second year of the stadium.

Modell, though, is likely to present the fans with some other options before he gives the bird sculpture a green light. He said the fans could be offered a JumboTron-type screen in the concourses rather than the sculpture.

Modell said if he sounds negative about the sculpture, it's because, "I'm so focused on what I think are the most important things right now."

For example, 60 stadium service managers are being sent to the Disney Institute in Orlando, Fla., "to get trained in the best possible customer service," he said.

Modell said he wants a perfect debut at the new stadium for the Ravens' first exhibition game on Aug. 8. "Some stadium openings are disasters. Our goal is to have Day 1 like Day 51." Modell said his other priority is selling personal seat licenses. He said the team has sold about 50,000, and that the last 10,000 are the toughest to sell.

"I call it hand-to-hand combat, direct selling," he said.

In April, he said the Ravens will start giving prospective buyers tours of the stadium "so they can physically see where their seat is going to be."

Pub Date: 3/27/98

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