The Orioles’ lease keeping them at Camden Yards expires in less than five months, and as the calendar ticks forward, state officials have sought to focus attention on the lease — or lack thereof.
The most recent comments came Tuesday from Maryland Stadium Authority board member William Cole, who concluded the board’s monthly meeting by bringing up the topic.
“I just wanted to express my frustration over the Orioles’ lease situation,” Cole shared with the board during a meeting at The Warehouse at Camden Yards.
The Major League Baseball club has played at Oriole Park at Camden Yards since 1992, when the state built the ballpark. Since then, the stadium authority has acted as the team’s landlord; each year, the Orioles pay an average of $6.7 million in rent. The initial lease was to expire in 2021, but the parties extended it to Dec. 31, 2023.
Last year, the state passed a law that acted as a carrot: By signing a long-term lease, the state would allow the stadium authority to spend up to $1.2 billion, which would eventually be paid for with public lottery funds, to improve both the Orioles’ and Ravens’ stadiums. The Ravens signed a lease earlier this year, extending their commitment to the state by 10 years and unlocking the funds, but the Orioles have not.
“With an unprecedented investment of $600 million from the Maryland General Assembly, I remain perplexed why a lease hasn’t been executed already,” Cole said.
The $1.2 billion, which many economists have criticized as being a bad deal for taxpayers, is one of the larger investments nationally from a public entity toward stadium improvement.
Cole’s remarks come two weeks after state Treasurer Dereck Davis, a Democrat, put pressure on both the Orioles and stadium authority to come to a lease agreement, saying: “It’s time to start putting timelines out there so we can get this damn thing done.”
Before the season, Orioles chairman John Angelos said he hoped to have a new lease as an “All-Star break gift for everybody, really, in the community.” The All-Star break ended in mid-July and, as Cole said, “that deadline has now passed.”
In response to Cole’s frustration, stadium authority chair Craig Thompson said during Tuesday’s meeting: “I can let you know that the discussions have been very productive and certainly appreciate your sentiment on that issue.”
Previously the president and CEO of the Baltimore Development Corporation, a Democratic member of the state House of Delegates and a Baltimore City Council member, Cole joined the stadium authority board in 2022 as an appointee of state Senate President Bill Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat.
Angelos and Gov. Wes Moore, a Democrat, issued a statement July 13 that did not provide insight into lease negotiations but said: “We are determined to make it happen, and soon.” A spokesperson for Angelos did not provide comment Tuesday, instead referring to the previous statement.
Asked if Moore believed the negotiations were taking too long and if there has been a sticking point between the parties, a spokesperson for Moore declined to comment, also referring to that previous statement.
“What comes next for the Camden Yards campus must serve our entire community and the city as a whole. From the ballpark and surrounding neighborhoods to Harborplace and the Inner Harbor, we are committed to making the downtown corridor a premier destination that benefits Baltimore and Maryland residents year-round,” that statement said.
The state and the Orioles have been negotiating a new lease for years, but the stadium authority recently switched negotiators as Thompson, a Moore appointee, became the authority’s chairman earlier this year.
A stadium lease contains agreements ranging from financial details and minutia regarding concessions to whether or not a team can relocate. The Orioles’ current lease, like many pro sports agreements, includes a clause preventing the club from moving out of Baltimore.
The Orioles (65-41) continue to be the biggest surprise in MLB and the best team in the American League as they continue their quest to make the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
Moore, a friend of Angelos, has been a frequent visitor to Camden Yards this season: During Sunday night’s game, which was shown on ESPN, Moore sprayed water on fans as part of the ballpark’s new “Bird Bath Splash Zone.”
“We’re in the middle of one of the most surprising and exciting seasons in recent memory and yet this situation casts needless uncertainty over the city and state,” Cole said. “As a taxpayer, a city resident, a board member and a lifelong Orioles fan, I’m hoping we can get some good news about this situation before we get to the playoffs.”
Source: Berkshire mont