Maryland Gov. Wes Moore is headed to Sarasota on Friday to jump-start negotiations to keep the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, with the ballclub’s lease set to expire at the end of this year.
Moore, a Democrat, will be joined in Florida by Craig Thompson, who was recently confirmed as the board chair of the Maryland Stadium Authority, which owns and manages the ballpark.
Meetings between Moore, Thompson and Orioles executives, including chairman John Angelos, are planned, and Moore will throw out the first pitch at Ed Smith Stadium for a game against the Minnesota Twins on Friday night.
The goal of the trip is to “open up a dialogue, to get a sense of priorities and goals,” Thompson said in an interview. “It’s to start building a relationship with John Angelos and the Orioles executives and getting a stronger sense of where they are in the process.”
Thompson acknowledged that Angelos has expressed an interest in getting a lease deal done by the All-Star break, but didn’t commit to a specific timeline from the state’s perspective — other than the Dec. 31 end date of the current lease.
“The timeline is before the end of the year. That’s the runway that we have,” he said. “Certainly it would be ideal to have an agreement long before the end of the year. I’m just not in a position, candidly, to put any kind of realistic time frame on this because we’ve not even begun substantive conversations.”
Ahead of the Sarasota visit, Moore and Angelos toured Truist Park, home of the Atlanta Braves, on Thursday. The governor hoped to “learn from best practices used by other teams,” according to his spokesman, David Turner.
The Orioles released three minutes’ worth of video showing Moore and Angelos greeting each other, sitting in a meeting and walking around the ballpark.
In a statement, the team noted the governor and the team recently committed to working together on a new lease as well as a reimagining of the downtown stadium complex as a “live, work, play” destination.
The Braves built a $400 million entertainment district around Truist Park, which is located 10 miles northwest of downtown Atlanta in Cobb County. The surrounding development, known as The Battery Atlanta, includes a hotel, office buildings, apartments, shops, bars and restaurants.
“The visit to Atlanta was part of the continued collaboration with the Orioles, the State of Maryland, and the greater Baltimore area to redevelop Camden Yards,” the team’s statement read.
The ballclub and the state government are working with the ability to spend up to $600 million financed by taxpayers to improve Oriole Park, which will be released upon the signing of a long-term lease. Another $600 million is scheduled for neighboring M&T Bank Stadium, home of the Baltimore Ravens. The $1.2 billion for upgrades at both stadiums was approved by state lawmakers last year.
In January, the Ravens secured a long-term lease at M&T Bank Stadium to keep the National Football League franchise in Baltimore for the next 15 to 25 years. The lease was originally set to expire after the 2027 season.
The Sports Business Journal cited unnamed sources on Thursday in reporting that the Orioles are hoping to sell naming rights for the field at Oriole Park at Camden Yards for a long-term deal worth $6 million to $8 million per year. The Orioles and the governor’s office declined to comment on that report.
“My sense is that if that’s something the team wants to think about or talk about, then I would defer to them,” Thompson said.
The Orioles also recently removed Baltimore Sun signage from the centerfield scoreboard and clock, original features from the 1992 opening of the park. The newspaper had not paid for the sign for “more than a few years,” a source with direct knowledge previously told The Baltimore Banner.
Baltimore Banner reporter Andy Kostka contributed to this article.