The Baltimore Orioles and the state government confirmed they have reached a deal to keep the baseball team playing at Camden Yards after the state’s stadium authority scheduled a special meeting for Monday to consider a lease.
Approval from the Maryland Stadium Authority’s board of directors is a key step for a lease to be approved for the state-owned ballpark.
The agenda posted for Monday offers only broad outlines of a lease and does not contain many details, including how the agreement would resolve the Orioles’ request for development rights around the stadium.
Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, in a statement to The Baltimore Banner, acknowledged the drawn-out process that it’s taken to get to this point.
“I know for many this process has been long, and the team that worked on securing this deal has done so diligently with the best interests of the taxpayer in mind,” Moore, a Democrat, said.
Moore’s statement said the final deal keeps the team in Baltimore long term, and benefits taxpayers and “the entire City of Baltimore.” The statement did not offer details of how the lease will work.
“The Orioles are a treasured part of the Baltimore community and I know I speak for all Marylanders when I say we are so excited to see the impact they will make on the City of Baltimore and across the state for years to come,” the governor’s statement read.
The Orioles issued a statement that read: “We appreciate the hard work that has gone into bringing this agreement down to the finish line, and we’re grateful to the Maryland Stadium Authority, the Governor’s team, and, of course, everyone here at the Orioles Organization.”
Any lease or development deal also needs approval from the state Board of Public Works, a three-member panel chaired by the governor that signs off on major state contracts. A notice posted late Thursday had no agenda details, but the Board of Public Works will meet Monday afternoon at the Warehouse at Camden Yards instead of its usual location in Annapolis.
The announcement comes with barely more than two weeks left on the Orioles’ current lease at the downtown ballpark.
The lease negotiations have taken many twists over the course of the year, and at least twice officials indicated they were close to the end when they were not.
In late September, Moore and Orioles Chairman and CEO John Angelos appeared on the scoreboard to announce an agreement for the team to remain at the ballpark for 30 years. That turned out to be a nonbinding memorandum of understanding that outlined the framework for a lease and development agreement.
Then, last Friday, after pinning down the details on a revised lease, Moore was close to publicly announcing the deal when it was scuttled over concerns raised by Senate President Bill Ferguson.
That sent Moore and Angelos back to the negotiating table to come up with an agreement that would win political support in Annapolis.
By Wednesday, Moore said he felt “very confident that a deal is imminent,” noting that the sides had worked throughout the weekend. This time, they looped in Ferguson and others on some of the details of the changes.
The changes that were made were not immediately clear Thursday.
The deal proposed earlier in December was complex, combining a lease for the ballpark itself and a 99-year ground lease that would have given the Orioles development rights for the B&O Warehouse, the vacant Camden Station building and an adjacent parking lot.
Initially framed as a 30-year lease, it would have given the Orioles four years to win a slate of approvals for a redevelopment plan. If the redevelopment plan was not successful, the Orioles would have had options to continue on a 30-year lease or switch to a 10-year lease.
Ferguson, who not only holds a powerful position in politics but also has the ballpark in his district, raised concerns about the development rights, including whether it was appropriate to link 99 years’ worth of development rights with a shorter lease for the ballpark itself.
Ferguson said in a statement that Moore considered those concerns and reached a good outcome.
“This agreement is good for Baltimore, good for taxpayers, and good for the future of the Orioles,” Ferguson said. “We’re protecting Maryland Stadium Authority employees, enhancing transparency for future discussions about land around the stadium, and incorporating strong protections for the spending of all public money. The agreement keeps the Orioles here for the long term under fair terms.”
The team and the stadium authority could have tapped into $600 million worth of taxpayer-financed bonds for ballpark upgrades, but a provision in the lease would have limited how much could be spent if the Orioles ended up staying only 10 years.
There also were provisions for the team to assume routine maintenance responsibilities at the ballpark while protecting the jobs of state employees who currently do that work.