A change at the helm of the Maryland Stadium Authority is arriving while the negotiations between the state and the Orioles over a long-term lease at Camden Yards continue. Gov. Wes Moore has removed Tom Kelso as chairman, a position he held for seven years.
Kelso is one of 48 people who had been appointed to positions on various state boards in the final months of former Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s tenure who Moore opted to remove from their positions.
Even though Kelso had served on the Maryland Stadium Authority since 2015, his most recent re-appointment came last July. Moore, a Democrat who took office last week, is allowed to rescind the appointment of anyone named to positions by the former governor while the Maryland General Assembly was in recess between last April and this month.
Moore made the removals official on Tuesday by notifying the Maryland General Assembly. Moore gave no explanation for the removal of Kelso and the others in a letter to lawmakers and noted he would offer replacements next month.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Moore said “the Administration would like to thank Tom Kelso for his eight years of service as the Chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority. Under his leadership, the MSA carried out numerous important projects which positively impacted our communities across the state.”
Moore’s spokesperson said they will continue to work with Kelso until a new chairman is announced in the near future. “The MSA has a long history of partnership and collaboration with the Orioles, and is going to continue carrying on that tradition,” the statement continued.
Kelso is a longtime supporter of Hogan, serving as finance chair of the ex-governor’s re-election effort in 2018, although Kelso has supported candidates on both sides of the aisle.
In a text message, Kelso wrote that he will continue to serve until his replacement is confirmed by the Maryland senate. That will happen before the end of the legislative session in early April. “Until then,” Kelso wrote, “I continue to serve.”
The change comes as questions about the Orioles’ lease have intensified. Orioles chairman and CEO John Angelos sidestepped questions about the negotiations at a recent event, and his family is embroiled in multiple lawsuits over the future of Orioles’ owner Peter Angelos’ fortune.
The Ravens secured a new long-term lease at M&T Bank Stadium to keep the National Football League franchise in Baltimore for the next 15 to 25 years. The lease was originally set to expire after the 2027 season.
Kelso was involved in reaching that agreement, saying at a press conference this month that the lease between the Ravens and Maryland required compromise on both sides. The lease extension allows the Ravens to tap into their share of $1.2 billion that the state set aside for improvements to the stadium complex; the team plans to add more luxury seating and plazas at M&T Bank Stadium, among other renovations.
“The agreement is a key first step — and I want to stress first step — in the transformation of Camden Yards and the surrounding communities to a live-work-play environment, where the public investment in keeping the stadium best in class can be leveraged by private investment — by the teams and/or third-party investors — either on the complex or in the area surrounding the complex,” Kelso said.
The Orioles’ lease at Camden Yards is set to expire at the end of this year, although the organization can exercise a one-time extension of five years by Feb. 1. The Orioles have not said how they plan to use the state funds.
“The Orioles will continue to work with the Stadium Authority and Tom Kelso and the next [gubernatorial] administration,” John Angelos said last week when asked about the Orioles’ lease situation. Through his attorney, Angelos did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
The Maryland Stadium Authority, which was established in 1986, oversees planning, financing, building and managing sports and entertainment venues in Maryland. While lease negotiations include multiple parties — such as Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott and the Maryland governor — the Stadium Authority is a key partner.
Herbert Belgrad, the first chairman for the Maryland Stadium Authority, was critical in negotiations with the Orioles over a move to what became Camden Yards. John Moag, named chairman in 1995, played a role in the construction and lease of what now is named M&T Bank Stadium.