Training Camp to be in Owings Mills

Despite a batch of recent promising developments in the ongoing NFL labor dispute, the lockout is going to block out a Westminster tradition. The Ravens won't be conducting training camp at McDaniel College this year due to the uncertainty of when the labor impasse is going to be resolved.

Plus, the private liberal arts school and the hotel that houses the players, coaches and staff each year during camp need more time to make advance preparations for their arrival. Whenever the lockout ends, the Ravens will hold camp at their $35 million training complex in Owings Mills.

The Ravens have camped in Carroll County since the inaugural year of the franchise in 1996. And their absence will probably trigger a negative financial impact on the county ranging from a loss of $1 million to $3 million based on previous summers' estimates, according to local economists.

The announcement doesn't come as a surprise as Ravens and college officials acknowledged to the Carroll County Times weeks ago that it was growing more and more unlikely that they would be able to hold camp in Westminster this year.

"We're disappointed we won't be back at McDaniel and in Westminster this summer," said Ravens vice president of operations Bob Eller, the point man in orchestrating the team's annual training camp. "We delayed the decision as long as we could. There are logistics that needed to be addressed now, including McDaniel's schedule, the hotel, the fields and other Ravens football functions. Right now, we don't know dates for camp, and we've been forced to make other plans. "One of the main issues we have is the time it takes to move our entire football operation to Westminster and then bring it back to Owings Mills. Those are days we can't afford to lose as our team prepares for the season in what has become a condensed time period."

The Best Western hotel had reserved a block of rooms for the Ravens from July 25 to Aug. 19. Although their lease agreement with the college has expired, the Ravens have already had talks with McDaniel about holding future camps there. Eller and McDaniel College vice president of administration and finance have negotiated several lease agreements in the past and don't anticipate having any trouble striking a new deal at some point before next summer.

"We've appreciated the Ravens keeping us in the loop through this process," Seidel said. "We've had ongoing discussions internally and with the Ravens, knowing that the closer we got to a regular training camp start date, the less likely it would be logistically feasible to pull it off this year. "We're certainly not surprised by this and have been prepared for this scenario. When the NFL has its new agreement, we look forward to speaking with the Ravens about continuing our partnership with them."

Seidel previously told Scout that he's not worried about having any trouble working out a new lease agreement.

"Basically, we would have started working the terms out of our contract extension a year ago," Seidel said. "But the Ravens and the college realized that there was so much uncertainty that we might as well wait. We've been really looking past this year and not focusing just on this summer, but on what changes need to be made to make things even better. From our end, the Ravens are a good organization and they're good people to work with.

"Right from the start, this has been a good relationship. It works so well and we enjoy having them out here. We hope they continue to think this is a good arrangement. It's business. They've got to work through their situation. They will, and we'll get back on track. The good news is once they do a new collective bargaining agreement it's usually a long-term contract. Then, we ought to be in good shape for a while."

Last summer, the Ravens set a training camp attendance record with an estimated total of 112,051. That broke their previous record of 111,492 that was established in 2001 following their lone Super Bowl championship.

"We hope to have a full NFL season in 2011, but the current timing compelled us to make this decision," team president Dick Cass said "We waited as long as we could, but we're beyond the dates when we could efficiently prepare for the move to McDaniel for a normal training camp start. We do fully anticipate, however, to be back at McDaniel next summer."

During the NFL owners meetings in New Orleans, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said that he expected to use the team's downtown stadium more extensively regardless of the lockout situation.

"I think we're planning on doing more at the stadium any way," Harbaugh said. "That was so good last year. We'll probably do it two or three times this year even if we're at McDaniel. I think we're going to come down there more. You hit the segment of your fans downtown that can just walk over or catch the bus." This breaks the Ravens' string of 15 consecutive years in Westminster.

"We'll miss being there, working with the college and the Best Western hotel," Eller said. "They have been very patient with us through this process. We'll also miss the interaction with the fans, which is a huge part of our camp experience."

The Ravens' facility in Owings Mills is closed to the general public.

"We don't have the parking space for the fans, and the roads could not safely handle the type of crowds we attract," team president Dick Cass said.

However, the team hopes to have at least one practice open to fans at M&T Bank Stadium.

"We will make every effort to have one or more practices at M&T Bank Stadium once we can determine our camp schedule," Cass said. "And, these sessions at M&T will be free and open to the general public."

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