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Official Review by Richard Smith, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) holds four annual football state championships in Baltimore every year. The MPSSAA derives its authority from both the Maryland State Department of Education and the 24 local school systems in the state. Started in 1946, the MPSSAA is a self-sufficient organization that does not receive revenue or funds from state subsidies (taxpayer funds), school dues, tournament entry fees or publication fees.
The championships were played for many years at the University of Maryland’s Maryland Stadium, then known as Byrd Stadium, for many years before moving to Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium.
M&T Bank Stadium opened in 1998 after the Baltimore Ravens played at Memorial Stadium for one year after their move from Cleveland. The stadium was originally known as Ravens Stadium at Camden Yards, until PSINet acquired the naming rights in 1999, naming it PSINet Stadium. It then reverted to Ravens Stadium in 2002 when PSINet filed for bankruptcy. M&T Bank bought naming rights in 2008.
Two Baltimore high school football rivalry games have been held at the stadium in November. Baltimore City College plays Baltimore Polytechnic Institute every November in one of the oldest high school football rivalries in the United States. Also, every Thanksgiving, Loyola Blakefield and Calvert Hall College High School also square off in the Turkey Bowl, usually reaching up to 13,000 people in the audience.
Besides the Ravens, M&T Bank Stadium has been the site of events such as the NCAA Men's Lacrosse Championships, Major League Lacrosse's Baltimore Bayhawks, 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup, Popular music festival HFStival, Monster Jam and the U2 360° Tour.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
M&T Bank Stadium has a multitude of concession stands for Ravens games. You will find very few open during the MPSSAA games due to the small crowds. Simple food offerings seen at most high school games is pretty much all you can expect. Prices are a bit on the high side.
This is not a Ravens game. There will not be 70,000 fans in attendance. A few thousand, at best, will be at the game. It makes the stadium seem a bit cavernous. The atmosphere is still pretty good as the fans are very excited to be watching their local team play in the big boy stadium.
The neighborhood is generally the same as Oriole Park at Camden Yards, but does suffer a slight bit, as it is further away from downtown Baltimore. The newly opened Horseshoe Casino, located south of the stadium, has the potential to make this "other" side to the stadium become more and more important to the Ravens' social scene.
Close to the stadium, and right across from Oriole Park, are Pickles Pub and Sliders Bar & Grille. The Federal Hill neighborhood is also close by. There are a few fun restaurants and bars here. Abbey Burger Bistro (1041 Marshall Street) is one great choice. The beer selection is good, and they offer a dizzying array of burger choices, which are all likely to satisfy. Mother's (1113 S Charles Street) and Magerks (1061 S Charles Street) are also good places for a pre or post game meal.
The Inner Harbor is a popular tourist destination, and is a short walk from Camden Yards. There are numerous options here but will be expensive and more touristy. If you do want a reasonable option, look for the value of the M&S Grill (201 E Pratt Street in the Pratt Street Pavilion of Harborplace) happy hour, as it is considered the best in town.
Baltimore is home to many tourist attractions, such as Harborplace, Fells Point and Fort McHenry. The American Visionary Art Museum on Key Highway is located on the way to Fort McHenry and should not be missed, although its unique collection will not be for everyone.
The local fans of each team are very hyped up to play at M&T Bank Stadium. Parents and kids alike will make all kinds of noises. Expect to feel like you are a part of the action.
You will not feel like you are at a Ravens game, as only a few thousand will make it into the massive NFL stadium. but the ones who come will be loud and proud.
M&T Bank Stadium is right off I-95, with only a couple of turns putting you on the highway home. Parking garages can be found in all directions from the stadium. On-street parking is not a great option.
Parking near the Inner Harbor is a good option. Check the parking link on the Ravens' website to find bargains that are a pretty close walk away. The 400 E Pratt Street garage with entrances off of Lombard Street and Gay Street is a nice convenient choice for a little over $10, if paid ahead of time.
If you're not driving to the game, the other primary mode of access is the MTA Light Rail. From points north and south of downtown Baltimore, you can take the train to the ballpark. The Light Rail is slow, so make sure you know that beforehand, and the crowds will be overwhelming after the game.
Tickets are cheap at $10. Since most high school games in the region cost $4 - $8, the price paid for the championship level event is a good value.
This is the Ravens stadium and even if here for other events the Ravens attractions make it worth a stop.
The Johnny Unitas statue located at the end of Ravenswalk and in front of the stadium is a gathering spot for pregame meetings, as well as a place to honor the Baltimore Colts legend. A Ray Lewis statue was recently added to honor one of the other most important Baltimore football players.
The newly-spent renovations and additions have made the purple colors and signage seem consistent, and scream out RAVENS at all points.
The atmosphere for the MPSSAA Championships is not the same as for a Baltimore Ravens gamebut a fan of high school football will love seeing local teams play in the large stadium.
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1041 Marshall St.
Baltimore, MD 21230
1113 S. Charles St.
Baltimore, MD 21230
1061 S. Charles St.
Baltimore, MD 21230
201 E. Pratt St.
Baltimore, MD 21230
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