Maryland officials are set to vote Wednesday on a new lease for the Baltimore Ravens that could keep the NFL team at the state-owned M&T Bank Stadium for up to 25 years.
Under the terms of the proposed lease, the Ravens would pay the state nothing in annual rent and would be able to keep all the proceeds from games and other events at the downtown stadium. The team would be responsible for paying all operations and routine maintenance costs at the stadium.
The Ravens would be required to host all of their home games at the stadium, “with limited exceptions,” and would not be allowed to move the team away from Baltimore.
The new lease would last for 15 years. It also includes two, five-year renewal options, for a total of 25 years.
The terms are largely similar to the current agreement, which also has the team paying no rent, but covering operations and maintenance. The current agreement, set to expire on Dec. 31, 2027, would be terminated in favor of the new lease.
Going forward, however, the state would pay for any major upgrades or renovations to M&T Bank Stadium through bonds that would be issued by the Maryland Stadium Authority.
Those bonds would finance up to $1.2 billion worth of work at the football stadium and Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the neighboring baseball stadium. That financing deal was approved by state lawmakers in 2022, but it was not immediately clear what upgrades could be in the works for M&T Bank Stadium.
The 10% amusement tax on ticket sales would be split between the Maryland Stadium Authority (80%) and the City of Baltimore (20%).
The new lease will go before the Maryland Board of Public Works, which signs off on major state contracts, on Wednesday. The lease was added to the agenda on Friday.
Two of the members of the three-member Board of Public Works — Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and Democratic Comptroller Peter Franchot — could not be reached for comment Saturday. The third member, Treasurer Dereck Davis, a Democrat, declined to comment through a spokesperson.
This will be the final Board of Public Works meeting for Hogan and Franchot before their successors are sworn in later in January.
Chad Steele, the Ravens’ senior vice president of communications, declined to answer questions from The Baltimore Banner about the proposed lease. But he issued a statement that read: “The Ravens and the Maryland Stadium Authority have been engaged in discussions on a stadium agreement since last summer. We set out to secure M&T Bank Stadium as the home of the Ravens for the foreseeable future and to agree with MSA on the necessary investments to deliver a great experience to fans for at least 15 more seasons.”
Steele’s statement continued: “We are respectful of the remaining approval process with the Maryland Stadium Authority Board, and Board of Public Works. We remain grateful for our strong partnership with MSA and the shared commitment to ensuring M&T Bank Stadium remains one a world class stadium and venue for live events.”
Ravens officials have been clear that they want to sew up a long-term deal for the stadium long before the end of the current agreement in five years. The team publicly disclosed they were hoping to sign a new lease about a year ago.
“There’s no way in the world that we would ever want to move out of that Camden Yards complex,” team owner Steve Bisciotti told baltimoreravens.com earlier this year.
Bisciotti told the website that he’d put $150 million of his own money into the stadium, and was pleased that state lawmakers allowed the Maryland Stadium Authority to issue bonds to pay for additional upgrades.
In 2021, the Ravens hired Populous, a design and architecture firm, to help determine “what changes we need to make in order to keep M&T Bank Stadium a first-class NFL stadium for 10 to 15 years after the expiration of our current lease,” then-team president Dick Cass told The Baltimore Sun early in 2022. Among the potential upgrades Cass mentioned was more premium seats, such as suites or boxes, closer to the field.
The stadium opened in 1998 at an estimated cost of $220 million and currently seats a little more than 71,000 fans. Many of the NFL’s stadiums are newer than M&T Bank Stadium.
The area around the stadium has seen development since the first games were played in 1998, with the Horseshoe Casino Baltimore opening in 2014. Now an entertainment corridor between the stadium and casino is in the works, with projects like a concert hall called The Paramount under construction and Topgolf, a driving range and bar, opening last fall.
In addition to serving as the home of the two-time Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, the stadium has hosted professional soccer games, serving as a site for the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup (a tournament for countries in North America, Central America and the Caribbean).
M&T Bank Stadium has also been the site of concerts by high-profile musical acts, including Beyoncé (twice), Metallica (twice), U2 and Billy Joel (who also played at Oriole Park at Camden Yards).
And during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, the stadium was put into service as a vaccination site. The University of Maryland Medical System estimated health care workers administered more than 250,000 vaccine doses there between February and July 2021.
While the future of the Ravens and M&T Bank Stadium could soon be locked up, the outlook for neighboring Oriole Park at Camden Yards remains unclear.
The Baltimore Orioles’ lease runs through the end of 2023 as negotiations between the state and team ownership have continued.
The principal owner of the team is retired lawyer Peter Angelos, who is in poor health and in the midst of a messy family legal battle that’s thrown the future of the team in doubt.
There have been persistent rumors that the Angelos family might move the ballclub. Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said in December that “as long as I have this job, I think you can count on the fact the Orioles are going to be in Baltimore.”