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Purple haze settles in as businesses reflect Ravens excitement

Alissa Gulin//Daily Record Business Writer//January 31, 2013

Purple haze settles in as businesses reflect Ravens excitement

By Alissa Gulin

//Daily Record Business Writer

//January 31, 2013

There’s a highly contagious bug sweeping Baltimore. Symptoms include feelings of elation, nervous fidgeting and a purplish hue. Experts predict the outbreak will peak on Sunday — at approximately 6:30 p.m., when the Baltimore Ravens make their first Super Bowl appearance since 2001.

Purple Fever is back — and this year’s strain seems particularly severe.

City landmarks, institutions and corporate buildings have been engulfed in Ravens purple. The signs of many big-name Baltimore companies glow atop their towers; other structures are cast completely in purple light. Some are adorned with larger-than-life projections of Ravens images.

“We do it for the same reason that everyone in Baltimore does it: because we love our Ravens,” said Nancy Carr, director of public relations at Notre Dame of Maryland University, where Gibbons Hall is bathed in purple light. “When the Ravens make it to the playoffs, our tower goes purple. We just love our team, and we do it because it makes people smile and it makes people happy. It generates tremendous spirit on the campus and in the community.”

The city-wide purple-ization began in earnest in early January, when the team’s fifth playoff run in as many years began. As the Ravens progressed, more buildings turned purple and existing displays became flashier.

That means more exposure for the design and production companies responsible for the special effects.

Baltimore-based Image Engineering, which creates customized designs for events, sees an uptick in demand when the Ravens are in the playoffs, owner Joseph Suehle said.

“I guess we’re lucky in the sense that when the Ravens make the postseason, the demand for these things goes up,” Suehle said. “It’s just so cool to not only have a business that does this, but also involves us in the pride and the excitement the rest of the town is feeling. Because we’re here in Baltimore, we’re Ravens fans. It’s almost like we’d want to do it anyway.”

Atlantic Stage Lighting in Catonsville has also received more requests from corporate executives interested in illuminating their buildings, said owner Jamie Lite (yes, that’s his real name). Atlantic has rigged lights all over town, including Gibbons Tower and Legg Mason Inc.’s sign atop the financial firm’s Harbor East building, for the past several years. The widespread appeal is understandable, he said.

“If you’ve ever driven downtown after everything is lit up purple, it just drums up morale with everybody,” Lite said. “Your city is going to the Super Bowl, and it’s exciting. It’s sort of like going to see Christmas lights.”

For the fifth year in a row, Image Engineering partnered with Capital Funding Group LLC, a Baltimore-based financial services firm serving the health-care industry, to create customized Ravens-themed images to be projected onto the six-story CFG building on Clarkview Road.

Dan Baird, chief operating officer at CFG, said the projections, which are clearly visible to drivers commuting north on Interstate 83, generate excitement and boost workplace morale.

Since Jan. 3, they’ve projected multiple images, and employees compete to think up the next one, such as a shot of linebacker Ray Lewis doing his signature dance and “OMG” after the Ravens’ white-knuckle victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

“Doing this stuff has kind of expanded to be a community-wide thing,” he said. “People look forward to seeing it as they drive past. … But as a company, we love the Ravens. It’s kind of a big deal here. So it’s fun to do this with all the employees.”

That workplace bonding comes with a price tag, though. Suehle said the cost ranges from job to job, but can run well into the thousands because of capital expenses and labor costs. Renting a high-powered projector runs about $3,500 a week, he said, and because a skilled technician must monitor it at all times, labor becomes pricey. Each additional slide runs about $200 to cover the artistic design and materials costs.

Building illumination, which can be orchestrated in a variety of ways, does not require constant monitoring. Techniques include placing heat-resistant colored filters over bulbs (Atlantic’s method) and using arrays of high-efficiency LED lights in red, blue and green that are blended in an attempt to replicate Ravens purple.

When talking about corporate team spirit, many are quick to say they have been ahead of the game. Legg Mason officials said former CEO Mark Fetting helped launch the trend about four years ago. Capital Funding Group officials said they were first to display projections about five years ago. Lite said Atlantic was a pioneer in popularizing the use of colored filters.

Regardless of who began the trend, business owners and executives agree that corporations have become increasingly eager to showcase Ravens spirit. They also note they’re not simply fair-weather fans; rather, companies are recognizing an effective way to connect with their surrounding communities.

“I think the students see that the university is engaged in what’s happening here and is part of the celebration of our hometown team,” said Jim Mitchell, executive director of operations at Notre Dame. “And it’s an exciting time — we want to be part of that excitement. The tower is a beautiful icon and one of our signature buildings. It’s visible from up and down Charles Street, so to have it lit up in purple is just a great way to show our support for the city.”

Related story: The psychology of a fan


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