New roost for Ravens?

Baltimore County: Rezoning park property for pro team use suggests move, but signals can change.

September 11, 2001

BALTIMORE County's move to rezone Owings Mills park land for a year-round training facility for the Ravens may be just the kickoff of a long game.

The 160-acre site seems like a good one for the pro football team's use. It doesn't appear to present any major problems for the area, separated from planned public recreation facilities.

But it should be recalled that the franchise is in a contract dispute with Baltimore City over rent at the old Colts center that the team has used since 1996. The Ravens pay $1 a year as part of the deal that lured them from Cleveland; the city comptroller wants $300,000 for the complex, which is three miles east of the county's proposed new site.

At one point, the Ravens were considering constructing a new facility on that property. And skeptics may remember that team officials earlier hinted at building an all-year complex in the vicinity of the downtown stadium where it plays its games.

The troubled franchise, which was in deep debt and behind in paying its bills only a couple of years ago, has enjoyed a remarkable reversal of fortune recently.

A well-heeled local investor has bolstered the Ravens' balance sheet, with a plan to gain future ownership. The Super Bowl championship in January provided another healthy boost to its finances and future prospects.

Still, pro sports teams are well known for their hard negotiating maneuvers with government authorities over money. The location of a new Ravens all-year facility could be another one.

Rezoning Baltimore County park land for commercial use is a serious step. County officials believe there is sufficient interest by the Ravens to justify it. That puts the ball in play, but the outcome is still uncertain.

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