The Orioles are here to stay.
The Major League Baseball franchise agreed to a deal with the state and the Maryland Stadium Authority for a new 30-year lease at Camden Yards, the organization announced Thursday night on the video board at the historic ballpark as Gov. Wes Moore and chairman John Angelos waved from a booth.
The terms of the new lease include two five-year extension options, according to a source with direct knowledge of the agreement.
Officials said full details of the lease — which has yet to be finalized — would be forthcoming Friday. Maryland Stadium Authority Chairman Craig A. Thompson declined to comment on Thursday evening.
The announcement came in the middle of an eventual 2-0 Orioles victory that clinched the American League East title in the waning days of an extraordinarily successful season on the field.
But the off-the-field uncertainty about the lease cast a shadow over the success of the players.
The Orioles have been playing at Camden Yards in downtown Baltimore since 1992, in a ballpark that ushered in a new era of stadium design.
Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott acknowledged the unique relationship among team, ballpark and city in reaching an agreement.
“The Baltimore Orioles are an institution and an irreplaceable member of the collective family that makes up Charm City,” the Democrat said in a statement. “I am extremely pleased that under this agreement, they will continue to call Oriole Park at Camden Yards — the ballpark that forever changed baseball — home for another generation.”
The team’s latest lease was set to expire at the end of this year, and on Jan. 31 Angelos notified the state that it would not exercise an option in the lease for an extension — throwing the Orioles and the state into full-fledged negotiations on a new deal.
Once the agreement turns into an official lease, it will need to be approved by the Maryland Stadium Authority’s board of directors, as well as the Maryland Board of Public Works. The Board of Public Works approves major state contracts and is composed of the governor, Comptroller Brooke Lierman and Treasurer Dereck Davis, all Democrats.
Under the lease that’s expiring at the end of this year, the Orioles pay a fluctuating rent based on certain revenues, such as ticket sales and advertising. The amount paid by the team to the state varies year by year, and for the past few years the Orioles have been getting a rent credit for the money they put into increasing the height of the left-field wall.
In 2022, the Orioles paid $6,013,290, a value approaching pre-pandemic numbers. The rent was as low as $414,591.86 in 2020 because no fans were permitted at games that season. As recently as 2016, the franchise’s rent at Camden Yards reached a high of $11,119,916.90. But then years of 100-plus-loss seasons and a pandemic lowered attendance figures — and, by extension, the rent.
The history of the park is not lost on Orioles players.
“It means the world to a lot of these people and to the city, because you get to go out and you get to see a piece of baseball history, but you also get to see one of the two major professional teams in Baltimore,” Orioles pitcher Tyler Wells said. “With such legends that have played here, it’s created such an unbelievable culture within the city. You’re talking about [Jim] Palmer, and you’re talking about Cal Ripken, you’re talking about the Earl Weaver days, you’re talking about even just the Delmon Young hit. You’re talking about things that brought this city together that people will never forget, and I think it’s a cool place to be, and I think it means more to the city than people even realize.”
Angelos and Moore expressed confidence in reaching an agreement throughout the negotiations. During a champagne celebration when the Orioles clinched a postseason berth this month, Angelos told The Baltimore Banner that a 30-year extension was “a given.”
“The Orioles have a 70-year partnership with the city and the state, and Camden Yards more than 30. And we’re going to have 30 more,” Angelos said Sept. 17.
Moore, likewise, has repeatedly said he believed a new lease would both ensure the baseball team’s home in the city and spur economic development around the Camden Yards complex, which includes M&T Bank Stadium, home of the NFL’s Ravens.
Angelos and Moore exchanged text messages after the governor and his children threw out a ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day, according to messages released to The Baltimore Banner under a public records request.
Angelos sent Moore a screenshot of The Washington Post featuring the first pitch. “Great to see Dawn and you!” Angelos wrote. “Front page of the WP, my friend.”
Moore responded: “I saw this! And this is the best! Yesterday was extraordinary, and I am so excited to have you as not just a friend, but a partner in the work. This moment is going to lead to generations of excitement.”
“Absolutely, well put,” Angelos replied. “Catch up soon I hope.”
At one point in negotiations, Angelos sought the exclusive right to develop property surrounding Camden Yards, including the parking lots between the two stadiums. That proposal faced multiple legal and logistical obstacles — including a parity clause in the Ravens’ lease that ensures equal treatment from the state — and officials in Moore’s administration said that was taken off the table.
The Ravens were not involved in the discussions that led to the lease agreement, according to a source close to the NFL team who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly,
The signing of a new lease will unlock $600 million worth of state-financed bonds that the Orioles and the stadium authority can use to renovate and upgrade the ballpark.
The money was authorized by state lawmakers in 2022, and the Ravens were authorized the same amount. The Ravens signed a new lease in January and have already begun the process with the state of planning upgrades and issuing the bonds.
Angelos and Moore visited The Battery, a mixed-used development adjacent to Truist Park in the suburbs of Atlanta, during spring training. Angelos has said the development is a potential model for a revised Camden Yards but has yet to offer a plan for how that would work.
Baltimore Banner reporter Hallie Miller contributed to this article.