Gov. Wes Moore, the Orioles and the Maryland Stadium Authority are trudging toward an end-of-year expiration of the team’s Camden Yards lease, with few signs a deal on a new lease is near. But there’s one massive carrot to entice the O’s to renew — $600 million in state bonds for stadium improvements, signed, sealed and waiting on team chairman and CEO John Angelos.
The money is part of a 2022 law that allowed the stadium authority to take on an additional $1.2 billion in debt for stadium improvements. And, because the stadium authority is contractually required to love its Baltimore pro teams equally, there’s $600 million earmarked for both the Ravens and the O’s — but only if the teams sign new stadium leases.
The Ravens signed their lease extension years before it expired and have already made plans for their portion of the money. The Orioles are still negotiating despite Angelos setting an All-Star break deadline. As The Banner reported recently, Angelos has asked to develop publicly owned land and for an additional $300 million from the state.
But Moore and Angelos are assuring fans a deal will get done. And, when that happens, here’s how the O’s could spend the $600 million.
What can the Orioles and Ravens spend the money on?
The state funds are not blank checks for each team to spend however it chooses.
The state gets the money by issuing bonds — a form of borrowing — that would be paid back to investors over the course of several years from lottery profits. There are also limits on what the teams can use it for.
The funds can pay only for “demolition and removal, construction, renovation, and related expenses for construction management, professional fees, and contingencies” for the stadiums and facilities “directly related to the use or operation of the stadium,” according to an independent analysis of the 2022 law.
Adding political hurdles to the requirements, both teams must gain approval from the stadium authority; the Legislative Policy Committee, a cadre of legislators that oversees the standing committees of the General Assembly; and the Board of Public Works for their plans. The Board of Public Works is composed of the governor, comptroller and state treasurer.
And the approvers have wiggle room to go above the $600 million, according to the analysis.
What have the Ravens done with their money?
The Ravens moved quickly to tap the state money after they nailed down their lease.
Officials with the football team, who declined to comment for this article, drew up a list of potential improvements to M&T Bank Stadium. The stadium authority came up with a list as well.
Documents describing the potential work include a variety of projects that fans would notice, including adding dedicated fan hospitality and retail areas outside the stadium; upgrading the club level and suites; adding field-level seats; relocating the press box to the top of the stadium; improving video and sound systems, including new loudspeakers in the main seating bowl; and potentially building a parking garage on Lot E.
Other upgrades are less exciting but still important: new offices for team and stadium authority workers; expanding the security command center; work on escalators and elevators; and plenty of electrical, plumbing and ventilation upgrades.
The Ravens have initially asked to use about $450 million of the $600 million available in state money.
The plan was approved by the Maryland Stadium Authority in March, and then again in May after it was tweaked.
After those approvals, the stadium authority sent the joint list of projects and the financial details to the Board of Public Works, which approved issuing the bonds in May.
”It really does underscore the very strong partnership that the state of Maryland has and will continue to have with the Baltimore Ravens,” the governor said. “Hopefully, it also means posting up a championship in the stadium pretty soon.”
How do the Orioles want to use the money?
It’s not clear, and as The Banner reported this month, Angelos has asked for additional public money and is seeking the ability to develop state-owned land.
But there are plenty of clues.
In March, after Moore took office, he and Angelos visited The Battery, a live-work-play development built around the Atlanta Braves at Truist Park. The tour took place one month after Angelos had plugged the project as the “best example of what’s possible.”
And this month a mysterious survey asked people about “Camden Crossing,” which it described as a “public-private partnership” that would include housing, hotels, shops, office space, and health and education services. A source told The Banner the project would likely encompass the existing Camden Yards campus and dozens of acres around the stadium and adjacent to it.
There are also broader talks about how to coordinate revitalization efforts happening across Baltimore, including Harborplace, downtown, the budding Warner Street entertainment district adjacent to M&T Bank Stadium and, possibly, Camden Yards.
But sources involved in those conversations told The Banner they have not seen any firm development plans from Angelos.
It’s not clear whether the money could be spent on an expansive live-work-play district, and the stadium authority did not respond to the question Friday. Moore on Saturday warned of looming budget shortfalls during a conference of county leaders. And Senate President Bill Ferguson and a Moore administration source have said they do not support giving additional state money to the team.
State officials had hoped the $600 million would be enough.
Hogan’s administration wanted the 2022 bond bill to “jump-start the negotiations,” according to an administration source who knew of the talks but did not directly participate. But Angelos “never really came to the table in a serious way,” the official said.
The Orioles signed a two-year lease extension when their original deal expired in 2021, and negotiations for a long-term extension remain unresolved.