Fresh off of the Orioles clinching a spot in the playoffs Sunday, CEO and chairman John Angelos expressed confidence that the team and the state would nail down a new lease for the Camden Yards stadium.
“The Orioles have a 70-year partnership with the city and the state, and Camden Yards more than 30. And we’re going to have 30 more. That’s a given,” Angelos told The Baltimore Banner amid postgame celebrations, in which he donned goggles and guzzled from a beer bong alongside the players.
The Orioles’ lease at the state-owned Oriole Park at Camden Yards expires at the end of the year, and the team and state officials have engaged in months of negotiations. Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, who speaks to reporters regularly, has repeatedly said he’s confident a deal will get done in time. But Angelos has been more reserved.
“The team, Greg Bader, Kerry Watson and the partnership team are working with the state,” Angelos said, referring to the team’s newly minted chief operating officer and director of government and community affairs, respectively. “I have every confidence we’ll get it done.”
Angelos added: “The governor did a great thing three or four weeks ago; that was great to see. All good stuff going forward.”
Angelos didn’t elaborate on what, specifically, Moore did three or four weeks ago. But Moore has attended several games this season, served as “Gov. Splash” hosing down fans in the Bird Bath section and publicly maintained an optimistic attitude toward the lease negotiations.
Last weekend, for example, Moore told reporters: “I remain very encouraged that we are going to be able to make sure that the O’s are in Baltimore for the long term and for generations to come.”
He added: “I want to make sure that we are not just creating winners on the field but we’re creating winners off of the field. We have to make sure that this is going to be a long-term win, not just for a ballclub but a long-term win for the community. And that’s where my focus is and I feel very confident that we’ll be able to hit all those metrics.”
(As the Orioles celebrated making the playoffs, the governor was in New York City to give a speech on climate change. He posted on social media, however, about the “LEGENDARY day” in Maryland sports, which also included wins by the Ravens and Commanders in the NFL.)
Neither side has said much about how the negotiations are going, though a few details have leaked, including that Angelos initially sought to have exclusive control over developing state-owned land around the stadium complex, as well as hundreds of millions of additional dollars in state aid. State officials have said that’s not a possibility.
Angelos is seeking additional revenue sources, which many sports franchise owners have in the form of other businesses. He previously toured The Battery, a mixed-used development adjacent to the Atlanta Braves’ new suburban ballpark, with Moore and has touted it as a model that could work for Baltimore. But he has not shared details about how Camden Yards or the surrounding area could accommodate additional development.
He told The New York Times last month that adding another source for the Orioles was “existential,” and said he did not want to run the team at a loss. He indicated that signing the stars who have powered this Orioles’ resurgence to long-term, big-money deals would require fans to bear the burden.
“We’re going to have to raise the prices here — dramatically,” he said.
If and when the Orioles sign a lease to remain at Camden Yards, they’ll unlock $600 million worth of taxpayer-financed bonds to pay for improvements and upgrades. Lawmakers approved that money — as well as an equal amount for the neighboring Ravens and M&T Bank Stadium — in 2022. The Ravens signed a new lease for 15 to 25 years in January and have begun the process to tap that money.
Like the Ravens, the Orioles are expected to sign a lease for the full length of time it would take the state to pay back the bonds.
The Orioles could have signed a shorter extension of their lease for five more years, and continued negotiating, but opted not to do so at the end of January. Angelos wrote to Moore at the time that an extension “doesn’t make sense for either the Orioles or the State.”
Under the current lease, the team’s rent payment to the state varies, because it’s based on a calculation of ticket sales and other revenues. (The Ravens, by comparison, don’t pay any base rent but are responsible for paying for routine maintenance of their stadium.)
With the success of the team on the field and the calendar flipping closer to the end of the year, the team and the state could face pressure to finish the deal.
“Sure, this just powers it a little bit more, makes people a little more excited,” Angelos said.