Top Maryland state officials approved a new lease for the Ravens on Wednesday that will keep the football team playing at the state-owned M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore for the next 15 to 25 years.
The Board of Public Works voted unanimously to approve the lease. The Ravens will pay no rent, but must pay for ongoing operations and maintenance at the stadium, which amounted to $11 million in 2022, according to state officials.
The current agreement was set to expire in 2027, but the Ravens and the Maryland Stadium Authority spent several months in negotiations on a new lease. Both sides had leverage and compromises were made, said Tom Kelso, chairman of the stadium authority, though he did not provide details.
The new lease is for 15 years, with two options for five-year extensions.
“We’re really excited,” Ravens President Sashi Brown told reporters after the vote at the State House in Annapolis. “Ownership — Steve Bisciotti, right through the organization — is really committed to Maryland as a whole and Baltimore. M&T has been a great home for us and it’s going to continue to be for the next 15 years.”
The Maryland Stadium Authority was recently granted authority to issue bonds to finance up to $1.2 billion worth of renovations at M&T Bank Stadium and neighboring Oriole Park at Camden Yards, home of the Baltimore Orioles baseball team.
With the lease at M&T Bank Stadium secured, planning can move forward on improvements to the stadium. Brown declined to provide specifics to reporters about possible projects, although team officials previously had expressed interest in adding luxury suites and club box seating closer to the playing field.
“M&T has been one of the top, if not top, fan experiences in the NFL, which is why the investment that we’re going to make to the stadium is that much more exciting to keep us at that level, and to give Ravens fans a really exciting game-day experience,” Brown said.
Brown did say that “most of the material improvements will be ready for the 2024 season.”
As part of the lease agreement, the Ravens committed to participating in a community planning exercise for the area around the two stadiums. The area has gradually shifted from an industrial zone to more of an entertainment district. The Horseshoe Baltimore Casino opened in 2014 and Topgolf, a driving range and bar, opened in fall 2022. A music venue, The Paramount Baltimore, is in the works.
“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,” said Kelso of the stadium authority.
Brown didn’t have any further details about the community planning work, saying it was “too soon” to discuss.
The new lease also requires that the 10% amusement tax on ticket sales — which was $7.3 million in 2022 — would be split between the Maryland Stadium Authority (80%) and the City of Baltimore (20%).
During the Board of Public Works meeting, all three members voted for the lease: Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Dereck Davis, both Democrats.
Hogan, who was chairing his last meeting before his term ends on Jan. 18, said securing the lease with the Ravens was “an exciting day” for Baltimore and Maryland.
“The Ravens are truly a world-class organization and a source of great pride for Marylanders,” Hogan added in a statement later.
Davis and Franchot both noted that when they were members of the General Assembly back in the late 1990s, they voted for the original plan to build the football stadium for the Ravens.
Davis also noted the current stadium turns 25 years old this year, and the new lease will keep the Ravens playing there for at least 15 more years.
Davis posed a question that he said taxpayers eventually will need to answer: How long should the state “keep patching” a 40-year-old stadium?
While the Ravens’ long-term presence in Baltimore is secured, the Orioles’ future is unclear.
The Orioles’ lease at Camden Yards 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, although both chairman and CEO John Angelos and Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred have pledged the team will stay in Baltimore.
“One down,” Davis said. “One to go.”