Ravens, fans ready for camp in Westminster

Summer training, which goes till Aug. 19, offers spectators activities like youth clinics

July 30, 2006|By DAVID P. GREISMAN | DAVID P. GREISMAN,SUN REPORTER

Purple, black and gold will be the prevailing colors in Westminster during the next three weeks as the Baltimore Ravens football team converges for its annual training camp at McDaniel College.

With the city's 11th temporary transformation into Ravenstown, staffers with the college, the Ravens and local businesses prepared for an influx that county officials estimate could amount to as many as 100,000 visitors.

"It's always nice to give the fans a good experience out here," said Brian Kasabula, fan development coordinator for the Ravens. "It's an opportunity for them to get close to their favorite players."

Outside of Cal Bloom's Barber Shoppe on Main Street, banners welcoming the Ravens and their fans hang alongside a large plaster raven sculpture that Bloom created in 1998 with the help of his daughter Emily and his wife, Susan.

"A lot of my customers are Ravens fans," said Bloom, a fan who also has players' photos and autographs decorating a wall inside.

As players arrived Thursday for Friday's first two practices, workers finished their weeklong set-up at McDaniel, painting hash marks on two temporary practice fields, stocking a refreshment stand with drinks, and constructing games and activities in a nearby parking lot.

The Ravenstown Fan Zone includes football activities such as a field-goal kick and a quarterback toss, a youth clinic that teaches the sport's fundamentals, booths and a refreshment stand.

"We try to create a fun atmosphere for families to enjoy the whole day," Kasabula said. "It's not just football. That's obviously the draw, but while they're here, we try to show them a good time."

Ravens fans can watch practices from the hills surrounding Scott S. Bair stadium or from bleachers at the practice fields behind the school's gymnasium.

A spot for autograph-seekers was set up near the bleachers, with a separate "Ravens Rookie Zone" for children 12 and younger nearby.

Nearly all of the McDaniel preparations were completed between Monday and Thursday, and they involved many of the Ravens' employees, an additional 25 to 30 summer training-camp interns, a moving company and members of the college staff, said Bob Eller, senior director of operations for the Ravens.

"It has become somewhat of a routine," Eller said. "It's still a lot of work and a lot of planning, but the staff is very well tuned into what needs to be done in their specific areas."

Kasabula said completing the training camp's preparations on time can feel challenging.

"There's a lot of stuff going on here, a lot of different pieces," he said. "We get a lot of people out here, so we gotta try and create different areas."

Along with watching football and being entertained at McDaniel, Ravens fans spend time visiting city businesses and staying at area hotels.

Both Harry's Main Street Restaurant and Baugher's Family Restaurant and Country Store typically experience double-digit percentage increases in sales, their managers said.

"It's a very exciting time for us," said Sindy Kertiss, manager of Harry's. "We let our employees wear Ravens jerseys; we decorate, do balloons, banners, the whole nine yards."

Kertiss said the restaurant also offers Ravens-themed dishes and schedules extra staff.

"It's a tremendous economic impact locally," said Denise Beaver, deputy director at the Carroll County Department of Economic Development. "All of our hotels and bed and breakfasts are full, [and] many Westminster eateries and shopping areas experience increased traffic."

The training camp provides good exposure for Westminster and Carroll County, Beaver added.

"It's really an ideal setting for our training camp," Eller said. "The proximity to Baltimore is great for the fans ... [and] for the players. It's only half an hour from our permanent training facility. The facilities themselves are very accommodating to the fans [and] to the operations."

The Ravens occupy the lower level of the college's Gill Center gymnasium, where they have a training room, locker rooms and a weight room.

The team brought all of its weights, equipment and training supplies to McDaniel from its Owings Mills practice facility, a move that required at least five of the team's 18 tractor-trailers, Eller said.

Some bedrooms at the Best Western hotel and conference center on WMC Drive have been converted into offices and meeting rooms that hold the team's furniture and equipment.

Several trailers are assembled outside for some of the position meetings and the team's video department.

Players and coaches watch digital video of their practices in the conference center, which has rooms for the whole team, and the offensive and defensive units' separate meetings.

The bar has arcade games shipped in for the players and a table from which radio stations can broadcast.

Players eat four meals a day in the dining room, which has been adorned with pictures of them.

The Ravens will hold daily practices at McDaniel through Aug. 19, except for today, Saturday, Aug. 6, Aug. 11, Aug. 12, Aug. 17 and Aug. 18.

With dates and practice times subject to change, the team advises fans to confirm daily schedules by calling 410-261-7283 and choosing option five.

david.greisman@baltsun.com

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