Now that the Baltimore Orioles and the state government signed off on a new lease agreement, a large pot of money is available for upgrades to Oriole Park at Camden Yards, which could include fewer seats and more bars and social areas.
When the ballpark opened in 1992, its design was seen as revolutionary — a modern park but with a traditional feel, anchored by the reuse of the historic brick B&O Warehouse beyond the outfield.
But the ballpark has aged and design trends have moved on. With that in mind, state lawmakers authorized borrowing up to $600 million in the form of bonds to pay for upgrades.
With a new lease signed, the Orioles can work with the Maryland Stadium Authority to access that money, with the stadium authority controlling the contracting work.
They likely won’t use the $600 million all at once. The bond payback periods cannot be longer than the term of the lease, and currently only 15 years are guaranteed, so that will likely limit how much the market will allow to be borrowed at first.
All of the bond issuances and contracts would need approval of the Maryland Board of Public Works, composed of the governor, comptroller and treasurer.
The Baltimore Ravens are under a nearly identical system for using $600 million that was authorized for neighboring M&T Bank Stadium. They’ve already started borrowing money for projects ranging from a tailgate and concert venue to seating options at field level.
Under the new Orioles lease agreement, the first round of borrowing money for upgrades would happen by July 1, 2025 — meaning it could take until the end of the 2025 season for fans, workers and even players to see shovels or hammers for stadium improvement projects.
Already, the team and the stadium authority have drawn up a list of ideas that are included in the lease agreement. The Baltimore Orioles declined to discuss any potential upgrades to the ballpark.
Here’s a look at what might be coming to Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Seating options and suites
Several items on the Orioles wish list involve changing parts of the seating bowl around the ballpark to offer different options for fans, including:
- Adding a field-level restaurant with “seating/suites.”
- Expanding the Flag Court by removing some of the “bleacher” seats beneath the outfield scoreboard to create a center field “bar/hospitality area.”
- Removing upper deck seats in left field — which were often closed off during the 2023 season — to “create social spaces, relocated and expanded kids’ zone, various seating options, and bar/outdoor restaurant.”
- Turning the picnic area past the bullpens into a season plan member lounge and restaurant.
- Removing some seats in the upper deck to create a bar that overlooks the field.
- Enclosing part of the Home Plate Plaza outside the park to allow for an expanded club level and upper deck, as well as a bar/restaurant.
- Improving sight lines for guests with disabilities.
The concourses that wrap around the seating bowl with concession stands and restrooms also could see improvements, if all of the Orioles’ requests are approved, including:
- Relocating the main concourse restrooms “to allow for creation of bar and social spaces with field views.”
- Other renovations to the upper and lower concourses that aren’t detailed.
- The club level, which is already enclosed and climate controlled, would be renovated to include “social spaces,” “loge seating” and a new central kitchen. Loge seats are a type of premium seat, often as part of open-air suites. The bathrooms would also be improved.
Improvements for players
The list of projects also includes improvements for the experience of players from the home and visiting teams. The Orioles would like to renovate and expand the service level — including home and visitor clubhouses, a press conference room, and a central kitchen for both teams — and relocate the batting tunnels.
Oriole Park’s clubhouses are smaller than in many other MLB stadiums, and they do not include lounges or dining rooms that are now common. And the current configuration of the batting cages requires a long walk for the away team.
Video and audio improvements
The Orioles and the Maryland Stadium Authority have agreed that one of their top priorities will be a renovation of the audio-visual systems in the park, including new video boards, a new sound system and televisions, along with an expanded or relocated control room.
The sound system in the ballpark is often muffled and the scoreboards along the baselines are small and hard to see for many fans. The main video board in center field is also smaller than in other stadiums.
Repairs and behind-the-scenes upgrades
Many of the wish list items are ones that fans might not necessarily see or appreciate, but are needed to keep the stadium in good shape.
Upgrading and replacing the chiller plant, which is a key part of the HVAC system, is identified as among the top priorities for both the team and the stadium authority.
The stadium authority has also listed updates including modernizing four elevators and replacing a building automation system, parts of the HVAC system and concrete in the lower seating bowl.
The Orioles have also put on their list new platforms and baskets for broadcast cameras and “canopy additions” at ballpark entry gates.
An underground parking garage attached to the service level is also on the Orioles’ list.
Baltimore Banner reporter Danielle Allentuck contributed to this article.