Taking flight with the Ravens

Preseason: Positive impact builds for Westminster, even if this isn't your father's training camp.

August 26, 1999

DESPITE THE wistful complaints of some Westminster merchants, the month-long summer camp of the Baltimore Ravens on the campus of Western Maryland College was a boon for the area. The team's impact on the community is growing, even if the direct economic effect is hard to quantify.

Attendance at practice sessions was up in August, eclipsing last year's total for the month in only nine days. About 35,000 fans are expected by camp's end today, compared with 22,000 last year. Three weeks ago, people were turned away from a scrimmage for lack of parking.

The major economic beneficiary is WMC, which has played host to the training camp for four years. The private college not only collects fees for use of its facilities, it owns the hotel where players and staff stay. Practices also generate concession revenue.

Some downtown merchants still pine for the years when the Colts held summer camps at Western Maryland College, decades ago. They want to see a team parade, a community event and especially some player patronage at downtown stores. As they should know by now, that era is long gone. Camp is a costly, intensive, grueling, career-making or breaking opportunity. Curfews limit free time; catered meals are carefully designed to promote maximum player performance.

Besides, Westminster is now more than its downtown, sprawling onto Route 140. Some merchants are surely profiting from the influx of football fans. "I don't think you can put a dollar figure on it," Mayor Kenneth A. Yowan rightly says. "The value to the community is beyond question."

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