Ravens Bidding Permanent Farewell to Westminster?
An article in The Baltimore Sun by Ravens columnist Mike Preston has people in Ravenstown all worked up this morning.
Nothing new there.
For once, though, our anger isn’t directed at Preston himself for some perceived shot at our favorite team. Rather, it is our team themselves who have us foaming at the mouths – and it has nothing to do with their play on the field.
Instead it has to do with the location of the field where they will be not playing, but practicing, come Summer 2012.
In the piece, Ravens training camp might stay in Owings Mills, Preston says that the Ravens might elect to hold their annual training camp activities at the facility in Owings Mills (as they did in 2011 due to the NFL lockout) permanently moving forward, ending the longstanding tradition of holding summer practices at McDaniel College in Westminster.
The Ravens are involved in negotiations with McDaniel College officials about returning training camp to the Westminster campus, but the early indication is that the team will continue to hold summer practices at the team’s facility in Owings Mills.
The Ravens have financial concerns. They have to move their offices, equipment, weight and training rooms to McDaniel, and that costs money. I don’t know the exact costs, but we can assume that some of it is offset by the corporate sponsorship displayed around the practice fields in Westminster.
The Ravens will also cite convenience. Why do they want to deal with temporary conditions when everything they need is right there in Owings Mills?
I understand their points. I also know that head coaches are control freaks, and John Harbaugh is no different. He can keep his eye on everything in Owings Mills instead of having to use makeshift conditions and go back and forth from the practice fields to the hotels. At Owings Mills, everything can be done inside The Castle.
Once the Ravens announced there would be no training camp in Westminster earlier this year, you sensed this might be the end.
Actually, it never even occurred to me that it would be the beginning of the end for Westminster. If it indeed is, though, it would be nothing short of a crime against the purple community.
Personally, training camp is no big deal – I’ve been twice in my life. Sure, it was cool, but I much prefer game day in the fall. However, I understand that my situation is not the norm among Ravens fans.
I live 20 minutes from M&T Bank Stadium.
I have no children.
For a family with two or three Raven-loving kids, that happens to live in Hagerstown or Frederick or somewhere else not convenient to M&T, training camp offers a very appealing family-outing alternative to paying the sky-high ticket and concession prices and dragging the whole clan down to Baltimore for an afternoon. In addition to that, the overall experience for a child can be at least as, if not more, exciting at training camp, where they can get autographs and see their favorite players up close, as opposed to from a seat in the upper deck.
Training camp in Westminster is a tradition that goes back to the old Baltimore Colts days, and the Ravens used that nostalgia to their advantage when they came to town.
Times change, and so do finances, but I remember the first couple of training camps in Westminster.
Back then, the Ravens were trying to recapture some of the glory from the old Colts who trained at what was then known as Western Maryland College. The Ravens wanted to salvage that pipeline.
Baltimore fans were initially lukewarm to the Ravens, some still feeling ashamed by the similar methods with which Indianapolis took the Colts from Baltimore and Baltimore took the Browns from Cleveland.
The Ravens did everything they could to get the community involved and practically begged fans to come to camp. But it’s a different game now because the Ravens are the top draw in Baltimore. If they want to alienate a few thousand, maybe even as many as 10,000 fans, so be it.
But I’m not sure top Ravens officials really understand the bond between a city, especially this one, and training camp.
It doesn’t happen often, but Preston and Ravens fans will be on the same page with this one.
Could this be another case of Mike unnecessarily rousing the fan base though?
For what it’s worth, this morning on 105.7 The Fan, Steve Davis said that his sources with the Ravens disputed Preston’s claim that Westminster costs the team money, saying instead that they actually MAKE money due to companies buying advertising space at the college facilities. In addition, Davis indicated that, at the moment, it’s not a matter of the Ravens leaning toward leaving as it is a matter of them not addressing the situation just yet.
Owner Steve Bisciotti has said in the past that some of his favorite childhood memories are of watching the Colts at training camp in Westminster, and the decision ultimately rests with him. I can’t see Bisciotti depriving a new generation of Baltimore football fans those same kind of memories.
We’ll see what happens, but permanently moving training camp from McDaniel, regardless of how many free practices the team may decide to hold at M&T, would be a public relations nightmare, and would alienate a lot of fans.