Nearly 35 years after playing a key role in the design and construction of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Janet Marie Smith is at the forefront of another groundbreaking in the city.
The former Orioles vice president is opening a Baltimore office for the Canopy Team, the planning and development firm specializing in the design of professional sports venues and their neighborhood surroundings she founded in Los Angeles.
“We are very interested in not just what happens inside the gates, but how does a building live in an urban environment and how do you create the zoning that incentivizes it to turn into something really special, and how do you create value out of what the city has already invested in the infrastructure around it,” Smith said.
With the expansion, the company has also announced the appointment of Fran Weld, a former senior vice president of strategy and development for the San Francisco Giants, as CEO, giving the firm two women at the helm.
The company’s entrée into Baltimore comes as Orioles Chairman John Angelos has pushed a vision of a “live, work, play” environment around Camden Yards during negotiations on a new lease with the state. Both sides have agreed to an eight-page “memorandum of understanding” outlining some key points, though it is not a legally binding lease.
Smith, who currently serves as executive vice president of planning and development for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Weld initially worked together on the preservation and expansion of Boston’s fabled Fenway Park 20 years ago.
“It all started in Fenway. I was one of the Bostonians who did not want to see Fenway Park torn down,” Weld said. “I joined Janet as an intern one summer, and as she does so well, she empowered me to try different things and we created the program of the historic tax credits and put Fenway Park on the National Historic Register. That work helped to fund the renovations and rehabilitation that saved it.”
Following that collaboration and a stint with Baltimore developer Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse, Weld spent 11 years with the Giants and spearheaded Mission Rock, a 28-acre mixed-use development adjacent to the ballclub’s Oracle Park.
Formerly known as Elysian Park Planning — a reference to one of the apocryphal birthplaces of professional baseball — Canopy was among the first nine companies to join The Trailblazer Venture Studio. It’s a partnership to promote more opportunities for women in sports created by Billie Jean King Enterprises, R/GA Ventures, the Los Angeles Dodgers and a venture capital firm founded by the ballclub’s ownership group.
A renowned urban planner and ballpark design specialist, Smith was hired by the Dodgers in 2012 to oversee the $100 million renovation of Dodger Stadium, including infrastructure updates to modernize the locker rooms, bathrooms and concourses. Perhaps the biggest addition was a centerfield plaza with new restaurants, bars and other amenities.
“She jumped at the opportunity,” said Dodgers team president and CEO Stan Kasten. “It was a labor of love for her as a fan of architecture and iconic venues. We already had the most beautiful vista in sports, we just needed some 21st century amenities. Now we have the most extraordinary centerfield concourse and grand entrance. The whole ballpark is a large open-air museum that celebrates our history.”
During her time with the Dodgers, Smith also worked as a consultant for numerous professional sports franchises and a variety of venues including, PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates; Polar Park, home of the minor league Worcester Red Sox; 121 Financial Ballpark, home of the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, the Miami Marlins’ triple-A affiliate; and Prince George’s Stadium, where the Orioles’ Double-A affiliate plays.
With Kasten’s blessing and encouragement, Smith and Weld were inspired to become business partners.
“Fran and I kind of put our heads together, we thought this really is kind of perfect, we’ve got a bunch of projects we’ve already got a team in place, and we’ve got the Dodgers and their support to do this, so why not?” Smith said.
Canopy’s list of clients includes the University of Florida’s athletic association and Major League Baseball.
In addition to development, the company also has an experiences and operations group that supports leagues, teams, universities, and venue operators working on special events, such as the 2023 All-Star Game in Seattle and the 2023 London Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs.
Baltimore will serve as the Canopy Team’s East Coast hub, and for Smith, who keeps a home in the area, there are advantages beyond reconnecting with the home of one of her most famous projects.
“We are able to take advantage of the dynamic start-up energy in Baltimore and its convenient location for travel that allows us to work on projects that span coasts and continents,” she said, “each with a unique and exciting set of opportunities and challenges.”