City preps for Ravens super send-off

Thousands expected at harbor rally today

vendors are braced

Super Bowl Xxxv

Ravens Vs. Giants

January 22, 2001|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

Considering that thousands turned out to cheer the Baltimore Ravens after their playoff victories when no one expressly invited them, city and team officials aren't quite sure what to expect for this morning's Super Bowl send-off for the team at the Inner Harbor.

Police say they are preparing to handle as many as 50,000 Ravens fans - although they don't expect a crowd nearly that large - at today's widely advertised rally. It is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. at the amphitheater between the Light and Pratt street pavilions.

After the team beat the Tennessee Titans in the divisional playoffs Jan. 7, more than 3,000 fans greeted the team's return to Baltimore-Washington International Airport in raucous fashion. And after the victory Jan. 14 in the American Football Conference championship in Oakland, about 1,000 people waited for hours in a cold rain to see the team return to its training facility in Owings Mills about 3 a.m.

By contrast, this morning's weather should be more inviting for a celebration - clear and cool, forecasters said.

"Based on the large fan support for the Baltimore Ravens and their trip to the Super Bowl, we anticipate a large crowd at the rally," said Agent Martin Bartness, a Baltimore police spokesman. "It's a big deal - the last send-off for the Super Bowl."

Ravens officials said the entire team will be at the city-sponsored rally. Gov. Parris N. Glendening and Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley also plan to attend.

"Coach [Brian] Billick wanted the players before we left to feel the energy the community has," team spokesman Kevin Byrne said. "This will be a blast."

Yesterday afternoon, workers began assembling a temporary stage as passers-by strolled the waterfront wearing all manner of purple. Indeed, across the city, businesses have fixed purple spotlights on their buildings and Ravens signs in their windows.

Shops at the Inner Harbor anticipate big business from today's crowds.

Stadium Sports, a store that specializes in Orioles and Ravens paraphernalia, ordered extra T-shirts, hats, sweatshirts and jerseys. Store personnel were concerned about whether ample goods would arrive in time.

"We're definitely going to need it," store manager Jimmy McLain said. "We're expecting a big day."

The store planned to open at 8:30 a.m. today, 90 minutes earlier than usual, he said.

Police getting ready

Police said they will close North Light Street between Conway and Pratt streets from 10:30 a.m. until the rally is over, shortly before noon. A large contingent of officers will be at the Inner Harbor to manage traffic and help keep order.

Parking remained a concern because downtown lots and garages will be filled with their normal workday customers, they said.

Police declined to estimate how many people they actually believe will show, but they don't want to be caught unprepared.

"This is a major event in the city of Baltimore," Bartness said.

"We're expecting quadruple the people" that the Owings Mills rally drew in the early hours Jan. 15, McLain said.

Off to Tampa

After the rally, the team will board buses for BWI Airport to catch a charter flight to Tampa, Fla., the site of Super Bowl XXXV between the Ravens and New York Giants. The Ravens will be holding practices and media interviews.

Said the Ravens' Byrne: The team "is looking forward to getting into the sun and a grass field."

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