Maryland Gov. Wes Moore has named a new chair of the Maryland Stadium Authority, who will take over ongoing negotiations with the Baltimore Orioles for a new lease at Camden Yards.

Craig A. Thompson, a partner with the large and influential Venable law firm, is Moore’s pick to replace Tom Kelso, who had chaired the stadium authority’s board since 2015.

The most pressing task facing the Maryland Stadium Authority is the matter of the Orioles lease, which expires at the end of the year. Moore and Orioles CEO John Angelos issued a statement earlier this month pledging to work on a plan to redevelop Camden Yards and “deliver a live, work, play theme that will bring residents, businesses, and tourists to downtown Baltimore year-round.”

There have been persistent rumors that the Orioles have flirted with moving away from Baltimore, and a recently-resolved legal and financial feud within the Angelos family cast further doubt on the fate of the team.

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The Camden Yards stadium, along with M&T Bank Stadium next door, are owned by the state of Maryland and leased to the teams that use them, the Orioles and the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens inked a new long-term deal for M&T earlier this year.

Thompson expressed optimism that the Orioles lease deal will be finalized before the clock runs out.

“There’s a strong desire to get a deal done, and personally, I’m willing to work night and day to make it happen,” Thompson said in a phone interview with The Baltimore Banner on Friday.

Thompson said that his first step will be to understand the various stakeholders and their needs. “I’m certainly going to do quite a bit of listening,” he said. “I know the governor and the Angelos family — John in particular — issued a joint statement earlier this month that demonstrated a commitment to a long-term partnership. I want to learn more about that and add my voice when necessary.”

A longtime Orioles fan who was born in Baltimore the day of Super Bowl III, when the Baltimore Colts lost to the New York Jets, Thompson said he brings a personal passion to the role of chairing the stadium authority board.

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“I can legitimately say I was born into the sports world,” he said.

Moore had the option to move on from Kelso, who was appointed by the former governor, Republican Larry Hogan. Kelso has donated to many politicians from both parties over the years and notably served as finance chair of Hogan’s reelection effort in 2018.

“I congratulate Craig Thompson on his appointment as Chair of the MSA,” Kelso said in a statement. “I have already reached out to him to begin the a smooth transition process and I look forward to working with him.”

Thompson said Kelso already has reached out to him to offer assistance.

Thompson chaired Moore’s gubernatorial campaign and is a prolific donor to Democratic candidates, according to campaign finance records, including making a $6,000 donation to Moore — the maximum allowed — and a total of $5,500 in donations to Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller’s committee. Thompson also has made regular contributions to Venable’s political action committee, which has supported Democratic candidates, including Moore.

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The Maryland Senate will vote whether to confirm Thompson and two other new members nominated for the stadium authority, entrepreneur Yolanda Maria Martinez and architect Lee Coplan.

“With backgrounds spanning law, negotiation, entrepreneurship, and planning and design, they will bring a wealth of expertise and valuable perspectives to the Stadium Authority,” Moore said in a statement Friday afternoon.

If he’s confirmed by the Maryland Senate, Thompson would start his role immediately.

The other two stadium authority board members, Martinez and Coplan, are nominated for positions that would start on July 1.

Martinez founded a sleep health company, Respira, and is currently chief strategy officer for Project Enhancement Corporation, a federal contractor working in environmental, safety and national security areas, according to the Moore administration. She’s been active in Hispanic business organizations.

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Coplan is a founding member and CEO of Hord Coplan Macht, the largest architecture firm headquartered in Maryland, according to the Moore administration. The firm’s work includes major health care renovation and expansion projects.

The stadium authority appointments were among more than 300 nominations to various state boards and commissions made by Moore on Friday.

Baltimore Banner reporter Andy Kostka contributed to this report.

Pamela Wood covers Maryland politics and government. She previously reported for The Baltimore Sun, The Capital and other Maryland newspapers. A graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, she lives in northern Anne Arundel County.

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