Details of the revised lease extension and development plan for the Baltimore Orioles were revealed Friday afternoon, ahead of key approval votes set for Monday.
The deal was reached between Gov. Wes Moore’s team and the Orioles after an intense round of negotiations over the past week. Both sides aimed to address concerns raised one week ago, when they were on the cusp of publicly announcing a deal.
The full agreement has not yet been made public. But the state posted a four-page summary Friday afternoon.
Here’s what’s in the deal and what’s changed in the past week.
Length of the lease
Initially, the Orioles will extend the terms of their current lease — which originated in 1992 — for 30 years until Dec. 31, 2053, with options for extensions beyond that. They will continue to pay rent to the state, using a formula based on ticket sales and other revenues.
There are options to change the terms of the lease and, under one scenario, it would be possible for the lease to end after 15 years.
The Orioles will have until the end of 2027 to reach an agreement on a ground lease and redevelopment plan around the stadium. The area for development is not outlined in the summary, but a previous framework allowed for redevelopment of the B&O Warehouse, the vacant Camden Station building and an adjacent parking lot.
If the ground lease and development plan does not win all the necessary approvals — including from a committee within the General Assembly — the team has multiple options.
At that point, the team could continue for the remainder of the 30-year lease, adjust some of the terms of the 30-year lease or end the lease after a total of 15 years.
A prior version of the deal that was circulated then scuttled last week gave the team a back-out option after only 10 years.
Another detail that seems to be gone: Prior versions called for the Orioles to have a 99-year ground lease for the redevelopment area, paying about $94 million total over the term. There’s now not a set timetable or rent payment for the ground lease — clearly something to be negotiated between now and 2027.
Taxpayer-financed bonds for upgrades
Once the deal is finalized and executed, the Orioles and the Maryland Stadium Authority will be able to tap up to $600 million in taxpayer-financed bonds that would pay for major renovations and upgrades.
The bonds were previously authorized by state lawmakers for both the Orioles and the Ravens — conditioned on the teams signing long-term leases. The Ravens already have started using bond money toward renovations at neighboring M&T Bank Stadium.
The Maryland Stadium Authority would control the projects and contracts carried out with the bond funding.
The new agreement appears to allow the Orioles and the stadium authority to start the process to access some of the $600 million as soon as the lease is signed. The state could pursue the amount of outstanding bonds if the team were to relocate before they were repaid.
The prior version last week initially limited the Orioles to $45 million unless their redevelopment plans were approved and they committed to remaining for the full 30 years.
Rent and taxes
The current lease and the initial extension have the team paying rent on a sliding scale based on a formula.
If the development plans go through, the Orioles could switch to a model similar to the Ravens. Under that model, the Orioles would no longer directly pay rent to the state. Instead, they would take on responsibility for routine operations and maintenance that currently are handled by state employees. The agreement would protect the jobs of the employees who currently do that work.
The Orioles would continue to pay admissions and amusement taxes, sales taxes and “applicable property taxes.”
The new terms of the lease extension up for approval include a no-relocation clause that mirrors the one included in the initial lease signed in 1992. Should the Orioles attempt to leave Baltimore, the Maryland Stadium Authority has the right to pursue all legal remedies — read: lawsuit — to recover liquidated damages.
In that way, the price of a relocation serves as a disincentive. Of course, relocating an MLB franchise is a lengthy process that requires approval from the rest of the league’s owners. With the state’s efforts to keep the Orioles at Camden Yards, that approval seems dubious.
In court documents last year, Louis Angelos, the younger brother of Orioles chairman and CEO John Angelos, alleged that his brother could look to move the team to Nashville, Tennessee. In subsequent interviews, however, John Angelos expressed his commitment to Baltimore.
Two key votes on the proposal are scheduled Monday.
First, the Maryland Stadium Authority’s board of directors will meet in the morning to consider the plan and vote on it.
The 11-member board currently has 10 members; six votes are needed for approval.
If the Maryland Stadium Authority board votes in favor of the plan, it will then go to the Maryland Board of Public Works in the afternoon.
Moore chairs the Board of Public Works. The other members are Comptroller Brooke Lierman and Treasurer Dereck Davis, who are also Democrats. Two votes would be needed to approve the lease extension. The board signs off on major state contracts and oversees what happens on state property.
Some of the opposition to last week’s proposal appears to have been quelled by this new deal.
Senate President Bill Ferguson, whose public opposition derailed last week’s version, said the new agreement is significantly improved. Most important to him, the minimum guaranteed lease term is now 15 years instead of 10. The new deal also allows the Orioles to negotiate a ground lease and development plan, but it makes no guarantees.
By requiring a development plan to be presented alongside a ground lease, the state can better negotiate the terms of the ground lease, including how long it should last and how much the team should pay the state for development rights.
“We’ll know what they want to do with the land so we get the best value for the state,” said Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat whose district includes Camden Yards.
Ferguson praised the work of the negotiating parties in addressing concerns.
“There were a lot of question marks and fits and starts, but at the end of the day, I truly believe we got the ideal best product,” he said.
Meanwhile, House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne A. Jones issued a statement Friday: “I am pleased that the Baltimore Orioles will continue to play at Camden Yards. The team and complex are critical to the future success of downtown Baltimore, and it is important that we get it right.”
While neither Ferguson nor Jones has a vote Monday, their support is crucial for major projects in state government. They also lead the General Assembly’s Legislative Policy Committee, which would vote on any future ground lease and redevelopment plan.