Baltimore Orioles Reject Camden Yards Lease, Seek Longer Deal


Just as the Baltimore Orioles seem poised to return to contention, their lease at Camden Yards has become a bone of contention.

Seeking upgrades to their 31-year-old ballpark, the team turned down a five-year extension of their current lease with the Maryland Stadium Authority, according to Baltimore Sun reporter Jeff Barker.

To a city that once lost the football Baltimore Colts to Indianapolis, the mere idea that the Orioles might move elsewhere seems unthinkable. But many major-league teams have moved – usually because of falling attendance or deteriorating ballpark neighborhoods.

After five straight losing seasons, Baltimore went 83-79 last year, a turnaround that made manager Brandon Hyde Baseball America’s choice as American League Manager of the Year.

In addition to the arrival of several promising prospects in 2022, the Orioles placed eight players in the Top 100 prospects just announced by MLB Pipeline.

Still, the up-and-coming club ranked only 23rd in attendance, drawing 1,368,367, an average of 17,543 fans per game, to Camden Yards.

A new Maryland law would allow the stadium authority to borrow $600 million for baseball stadium upgrades – and the same amount for the nearby ballpark of the football Ravens – it also requires a longer lease than the five-year extension now on the table.

The team seeks “a longer-term, more comprehensive stadium agreement,” according to Barker.

Two years ago this month, the lease between the team and the stadium authority was extended – with the proviso that another five years could be added. But the Orioles, whose lease expires at the end of this year, did not exercise that option.

The Baltimore Sun report suggests the team wants a deal of 10-15 years and hopes to have it in place before the July 11 All-Star Game. Ballpark and neighborhood upgrades would be included if the ballclub gets its way.

Complicating negotiations is the fact that owner Peter Angelos, an attorney, is 93 and sons John and Louis are locked in a legal battle allegedly involving the possible sale and relocation of the team.

John Angelos, who holds the titles of CEO and chairman of the board, said “We’re not going anywhere” when questioned by a reporter at a Martin Luther King Day parade last month.

Maryland governor Wes Moore is also involved.

“When Camden Yards opened 30 years ago,” he said in a statement this week, “the Baltimore Orioles revolutionized baseball and set the bar for the fan experience. We share the commitment of the Orioles organization to ensuring that the team is playing in a world-class facility at Camden Yards for decades to come and are excited to advance our public-private partnership.”

In the same media release, John Angelos noted, “I am looking forward to continuing to collaborate with Governor Moore, his administration, and the Maryland Stadium Authority in order to bring to Baltimore the modern, sustainable, and electrifying sports and entertainment destination the State of Maryland deserves.

“We greatly appreciate Governor Moore’s vision and commitment as we seize the tremendous opportunity to redefine the paradigm of what a Major League Baseball venue represents and thereby revitalize downtown Baltimore.

“It is my hope and expectation that, together with Governor Moore and the new members and new chairman of the MSA Board, we can again fully realize the potential of Camden Yards to serve as a catalyst for Baltimore’s second renaissance.”

The nearby Inner Harbor, once a glittering tourist mecca that served as a model for turning inner-city blight into beauty, has been hampered by neglect and decay in recent years. But the Society for American Baseball Research [SABR] selected the Hyatt Regency as the site for its 50th annual convention last August because its delegates were able to walk to Oriole Park.

With spring training less than two weeks away, fan anxiety over the future of the team will be high until the lease issue is resolved.

Possibilities include another short-term extension, a long-term agreement that includes ballpark and neighborhood upgrades, or an impasse that leads the club to consider such other baseball-hungry sites as Nashville, New Orleans, Buffalo, Montreal, or Vancouver, B.C.

The Orioles themselves began life as the St. Louis Browns, transferring to Baltimore in 1954 when poor attendance, losing records, and dominance by the Cardinals proved too powerful.

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