Ravens, McDaniel agree on contract

NFL team to train at college through 2010

April 14, 2004|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,SUN STAFF

Purple, black and gold will continue to reign in Westminster. The Baltimore Ravens have agreed to hold their summer training camp at McDaniel College through 2010.

The new contract, announced yesterday by officials of the school and the National Football League team, means tens of thousands of fans will continue to flock to the campus to catch a glimpse of their favorite players and bring business to the city's downtown restaurants and shops.

"We're extremely pleased to continue the relationship that has always been a very pleasant experience in dealing with the collegiate people and the folks at the city of Westminster," said Bob Eller, director of operations for the Ravens.

Financial details of the contract were not released.

McDaniel College has a long history of playing host to training camps for Baltimore football teams. The Colts trained at what was then Western Maryland College for 18 years, ending in 1971.

When the Ravens arrived in the summer of 1996, the team renewed the Baltimore metropolitan area's love affair with professional football. About 60,000 fans descend on Westminster each summer, including eager autograph seekers, a horde of news media and tourists.

The summer after the Raven's 2001 Super Bowl win, the training camp was especially popular, drawing more than 100,000 spectators to the team's practices.

"Pro football will continue as a great summer tradition at McDaniel College," said Ethan Seidel, vice president for the college's administration and finance.

What's more, the city turns purple during the three-week training camp in July and August. Businesses and shops put up signs, banners and flags, welcoming the Ravens and their fans. The team's stay in Westminster generates $1 million a year for the local economy, according to past figures.

"Common sense tells us it has a tremendous positive impact for the community," said Westminster Mayor Kevin Dayhoff. "When you have that many folks, it's not only the folks that come to town, buy gas and spend money at the restaurants and shop at our stores. It's also a wonderful introduction to the city."

A boost in business during the Ravens training camp is not lost on Harry Sirinakis, owner of Harry's Main Street Grille, a restaurant popular with players.

"As my favorite line goes, `I wish training camp happened every week,'" Sirinakis said, noting that he sees at least a 20 percent increase in business.

When training camp begins in July, Harry's is decked out in purple with its servers wearing Ravens jerseys and serving team specials.

"It's a wonderful shot of enthusiasm in the community," Sirinakis said. "It's exciting to see new fans. It's exciting to see people geared up for the season. There's a buzz in town."

The contract, which was set to expire after this summer, calls for installing synthetic turf at the college's Scott S. Bair Stadium, with the school and the team sharing the cost. The team and the college also agreed to conduct a feasibility study for room expansion at the Best Western in Westminster, the hotel used by the Ravens.

The new field surface, the same type used at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, is expected to be ready by June. The training camp is to start July 29, Eller said, with the first practice the next day.

Eller said the new turf would benefit the school and the football team.

"For the football team, it provides us with a stable surface that could be used in foul weather without the potential for doing a lot of damage to the natural grass," he said. The synthetic turf also will enable the college to hold more sporting events there, he added.

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