Outgrowing training site, Ravens buy up Baltimore County land for expansion
The Ravens will expand their cramped Baltimore County headquarters and training facility known as “The Castle” after purchasing seven homes adjacent to the 33-acre complex.
The project to nearly triple parking and add space for offices, meetings, and dining and locker rooms will cost an estimated $45 million, $9 million more than the Owings Mills facility cost when it was built in 2004.
Ravens President Dick Cass called it “a major commitment, and means we’re not leaving anytime soon.”
The team, which said it has outgrown its existing Owings Mills space, has been negotiating with nearby residents and acquiring properties surrounding the complex off Deer Park Road since 2012.
Much of the newly acquired land will be used for parking for up to 1,200 fans to view training camp workouts. About 1,000 who attended in the past parked nearby and were driven to camp on shuttle buses.
The team didn’t anticipate hosting training camps at the Owings Mills complex when it opened, but the Ravens moved the team’s summer training camp there fromWestminster’s McDaniel College in 2010.
“From a fan perspective, we’d much prefer to be at Westminster,” Cass said. “But from a football perspective, we don’t think we would be as well prepared for the upcoming season if we didn’t have training camp here. There is a tradeoff.”
Many other NFL teams have shifted their camps away from college campuses in recent years to take advantage of increasingly sophisticated and expensive training equipment at their own sites.
Because of the construction, the club said, it won’t be able to invite fans to watch this summer’s training camp at the facility formally known as the Under Armour Performance Center since 2012, although it still will offer them the chance to attend a few workouts at M&T Bank Stadium.
The team also moved about 30 sales and marketing staff members to temporary offices in the downtown stadium.
Demolition begins this month on the facility’s one-story, 9,000-square-foot north wing, which will be replaced in the project’s first phase with a two-story, 46,000-square-foot addition, according to documents on file with the county. The club retained Gaudreau Architects of Baltimore for the design, and the addition is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
The Ravens need the added space to house the roughly 50 more staff members employed by the team than it had when the center opened.
The team is increasing the number of paved parking spots from 300 to 550 and — with some of the newly acquired land — adding nearly 300 grass parking spaces for visitors to summer training camp.
To date, the Ravens have acquired seven properties on Deer Park Road, Shipes Lane and Barnes Avenue for a combined $1.72 million — an average of about $246,000 per lot, according to state property records. Three other homeowners on Shipes Lane are staying put for now.
“Some of these [residential lots] we particularly wanted to acquire because they were necessary for expanding our parking, both for daily use and for the training camp,” Cass said. “Every house we’ve bought we’ve paid far more than the appraised value.”
Many nearby families have negotiated with the club. Some live close enough to the training center that they can hear rock music and piped-in crowd noise when the team is practicing.
Brie Burdych, 27, who lived with her husband on Shipes Lane, a narrow private road on a hill overlooking the complex, sold the property they paid $179,000 in 2012 to the Ravens for $300,000 last March.
“The first offer was not enough, so we asked for more,” said Burdych, who moved to Middle River. “They came back with a better offer that we were happy with.”
A few residents of the unpaved lane are holding out.
“This house has been here for 80 years and occupied by the Shipe family,” said Joseph Shipe, 75, who said the road is named for his family. “My family has been comfortable here.”
Larry Jones, a 46-year-old carpenter, said he paid $150,000 several years ago for his modest red home and 1-acre lot and isn’t ready to leave — unless the team antes up more money.
“They can have this home for a great price. I’m going to play the game,” said Jones, who can peer over a wire fence across the street and see Under Armour’s giant logo on the training center.
The Ravens said they haven’t made a formal offer to Jones and two others on the street who haven’t indicated interest in selling.
“We’ve told these people if they want to sell we would be interested, and we think their houses have a value in a range of $240,000 to $260,000,” Cass said. “These three houses, if they want to sell at a reasonable price, we would buy them. But if they want to stay there, that’s OK too.”
Jones said he is concerned by work vehicles on the road. The home across the street was bought by the Ravens for $280,000, records show, and is being used as a construction headquarters by Whiting-Turner, the contractor.
“I moved here because I like the woods,” Jones said.
Cass said Jones’ “view out of his front is not going to change. There’s going to be more landscaping.”
If all of the Shipes Lane homeowners agreed to sell, Cass said, the team could pave the street “and fans could come down Shipes Lane rather than coming through the gatehouse. But we’re assuming we’re not going to be able to acquire those houses.”
The Ravens are removing 19 trees during the expansion. The county approved the tree removal on the grounds that it would not “alter the essential character of the neighborhood” or harm water quality. The Ravens are required to pay more than $9,500 in mitigation fees in order to remove the trees and say they are planting more trees than are being removed.
The Ravens built the complex on an undeveloped 32-acre section of Northwest Regional Park the team began leasing from the Baltimore County government in 2002. Each year, the Ravens pay rent to the county that is equal to the amount of the county’s portion of the annual property tax. This year, the rent was $371,496.40.
The Ravens also paid the county $99,000 in 2015 after the team sold the facility’s naming rights to Under Armour.
The Ravens’ lease with the county lasts for 25 years, with three 10-year renewal options. The lease was signed over the objection of some Baltimore County Council members, who called it a “sweetheart deal.”