The Baltimore Ravens made one of their worst decisions since moving to Baltimore, announcing on Friday that they will hold training camp at team headquarters in Owings Mills, Md.. The Ravens had held training camp at McDaniel College, which is a half hour away from their facility, for the first 15 years of their existence.
This is a bad move in regards to tradition. Training camp at McDaniel College (nee Western Maryland College) dates back to the 1950s when the Baltimore Colts trained there.
This is an extremely bad move in regards to the team's connection to its fan base. The Ravens generally drew crowds surpassing 100,000 each year to McDaniel, where fans could get an up-close look at the team. Fans aren't permitted at Ravens headquarters because it wasn't built to handle large crowds.
"From a football and team point of view, it’s an easy decision. Personally, this is difficult," Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said in a release. "Some of my best memories as a kid are my family’s visits to the Colts’ training camp in Westminster. Part of my devotion to the game and the players who made it great and are heroes to many of us, started on those visits."
Bisciotti added: “We completely understand that this takes away an important part of our connection with our fans. I regret that. Hopefully, we can find other ways to continue this outreach. We’ll have more to say on this as we develop these programs.”
In joining a growing trend of NFL teams staying at their own places for camp, the Ravens announced they are committed to a minimum of three practices away from Owings Mills, including one at M&T Bank Stadium. Still, they will be the only AFC North team that will close nearly all of their practices to the public. The Browns conduct training camp at their facility every year, but they open close to 20 practices to fans each summer.
Team officials explained this wasn't a financial decision, saying they didn't lose money because of camp sponsors and partners. The Ravens believe they can better prepare for the season at team headquarters.
“In 1996, Westminster was the best place for us to have training camp,” general manager Ozzie Newsome said in a statement. “How teams conduct training camp today is vastly different. Our football needs and requirements are different. The absence of two-a-days, how much space we need for the players and the meetings, the limited number of practices allowed by the new CBA (collective bargaining agreement), the importance of having an indoor field when the summer storms come – all of that and more football-influenced factors, had me recommend to Steve [Bisciotti] and Dick [Cass, team president] that we hold camp here.”
The Ravens held training camp this year at the team facility because its contract wasn't renewed during the lockout. The team held an open practice to the public at M&T Bank Stadium this summer.
As far as the AFC North, the Ravens and the Browns will be the only teams holding camp at their facility. The Steelers go to St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa., and the Bengals train at Georgetown College in Kentucky.