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Fans hit bus tours for Ogden’s Canton induction

In honor of former Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden’s induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, AAA Mid-Atlantic and Eyre Bus, Tour & Travel are offering fans a chance to witness a historic moment in Baltimore sports.

When this bus rolls into Ohio, there will be no mistaking what kind of fans it is carrying to Canton and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Ogden, the first player drafted by the Ravens and the team’s first Hall of Famer, will be inducted into the Hall on Saturday. Both companies’ tours leave Friday and include round-trip bus fare from Baltimore to Canton, Ohio, tickets to the induction ceremony, access to the Hall of Fame museum, fan parties and other amenities.

This is not AAA Mid-Atlantic’s first Ravens event. The company has offered yearly Ravens cruise travel packages since 2010, according to group travel manager Amy Short. The Hall of Fame tour, which AAA calls Jonathan Ogden’s Caravan to Canton, took the place of the cruise this year.

She said AAA had been working on organizing a tour to the Hall since 2012, since it knew Ogden, who retired after the 2007 season, would be eligible for induction this year. Players can be admitted to the Hall five years after retiring.

Eyre, based in Glenelg, has also been organizing its Hall of Fame tour for about a year. Tour and travel manager Ellen Kilby said the company had been compiling hotel prices and other related costs during that time, estimating that three buses’ worth of fans would attend.

However, both companies still have seats available. Short said she expects about 50 people to participate in AAA’s tour, though as of last Friday there were still seats available.

“The economy right now isn’t the best, and the price point isn’t the cheapest,” she acknowledged. “We’re happy with where we are with this.”

AAA’s tickets range from $1,885 to $2,159 and include access to Sunday’s Hall of Fame Game, the first game of the NFL preseason. Seats on Eyre’s tour range from $579 to $729.

Kilby said that Eyre’s tour, which transports fans in a specially designed Ravens bus, also has seats available and that those who were going were “very excited.”

Short said there was a similar level of excitement for the Caravan.

“This is really where true fans go,” Short said.

The Ravens organization has not been involved in promoting either event. Patrick Gleason, the Ravens’ assistant director of public relations, said the team was not involved aside from advertising on the team’s website.

Short said AAA’s partner organizations manage most of the promotions for sports-related events. The company decided to take a more active role in promoting the Caravan because Ogden lives in the Baltimore area.

AAA partner for this trip, Massachusetts-based Sports Travels and Tours, is a key component of making the whole operation work. Sports Travel and Tours has been securing hotel rooms and access to the many events surrounding the enshrinement weekend.

“We’re in the background, doing it all,” said Jay Smith, president.

Eyre has organized a handful of Hall of Fame trips for sports heroes in the past. Kilby said that 10 buses’ worth of fans went to Cooperstown, N.Y., for Cal Ripken Jr.’s 2007 induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Eyre last went to Canton for former Washington Redskins cornerback Darrell Green’s enshrinement in 2008.

Ogden, who is the first player to enter the Hall after having played only for the Ravens, will be presented at the ceremony by Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, who drafted him.

Ogden said he was looking forward to thanking Ravens fans for their support during his 12-year career.

“They’re crazy,” he said on a conference call with reporters. “We got some of the best fans in the NFL. At the end of the day, the fans are the ones paying the bills.”