Mervo Set for Success


With the help of the Ravens All Community Team Foundation, owner Steve Bisciotti, cornerback Chris McAlister and the NFL Youth Football Fund, Mervo officially christened Art Modell Field at Mergenthaler Vocational Technical High School Thursday, just in time to begin practice for the 2008 season.

The field features Sportexe turf (like that of M&T Bank Stadium), additional bleachers, a ticket booth structure and restroom and concession improvements in renovations totaling $1 million.

As wide-eyed players from Mervo's Mustangs and the Northwood Youth Football League, who will also play on the high school's field, marched out onto the deep green matting, the project's impact on the north Baltimore City community was evident.

"We want to be here for you when you need us," Bisciotti told the crowd of local parents and students. "Obviously, this is in our strike zone. I hope it's not lost on the fans that the support they give the players on Sunday is returned. They care very deeply for kids and how they're being raised. Opportunities like this warm the players' hearts.

"We have a lot of young men on our roster that never got a chance to play on a field like this."

Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon, wideout Yamon Figurs, tight end Daniel Wilcox and linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo joined Bisciotti and McAlister as they saluted the career of Modell, also in attendance with his wife, Pat.

"It's been a wonderful experience here, and one of my fondest experiences is getting to know and work with Steve Bisciotti," Modell said. "He will do an awful lot for football and the City of Baltimore, and he already has."

Despite his 47 years of service to the NFL and major role into bringing the league to the forefront of American sports, the field is the first and only one to bear Modell's name.

"It goes without saying that this is a guy that I admire about as much as anybody as I've ever met," Bisciotti said. "When we had the opportunity to name the field, it was a no-brainer who we were going to name it for. The City of Baltimore has come to love Art and his family."

The renovations marked a complete turnaround to a decrepit facility that previously was a major headache.

It was closed for four years due to disputes between the city and contractors over building costs, but when it did finally open three years ago, dirt and stones were more prevalent than grass.

"The ground was kind of hard, and the field was just in bad shape," said Mervo head coach John Blake.

Now, Blake is ready to begin work for the upcoming campaign. He expects big crowds under the Friday night lights, but knows that other teams will be eager to play on the surface, as well.

"That's a sacrifice I'll take," Blake said. "Let them come up here and beat us. I think it's going to give us some energy here, too."

After making the playoffs for the past three years, Blake expects his Mustangs to repeat for a fourth time.

"We are going to be young, but we always expect to be in the playoffs," he continued. "We just need to find a way to get over that hump when we get there."

The Ravens, Bisciotti and McAlister may have just given Mervo their needed push.

WATCH THIS: Ravens in the Community: Mervo Field
Owner Steve Bisciotti, cornerback Chris McAlister, Art Modell and the Mervo football team officially christen Art Modell Field at Mergenthaler Vocational Technical High School.

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