Maryland Bill Laying Groundwork for Up to $1.2 Billion in Baltimore Stadium Upgrades Passes Overwhelmingly

| April 13, 2022 | 0 Comments

A bill called HB896 that lays the groundwork for up to $1.2 billion in future renovations at Camden Yards Sports Complex stadiums Oriole Park at Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium was passed by an overwhelming vote. The bill, which was approved 123-10 in the Maryland House of Delegates and 43-0 in the Maryland Senate, was signed yesterday by Governor Larry Hogan. Baltimore City Mayor Brandon Scott has also pledged his support for the bill.

HB896 will raise the debt limit from bonds issued by the Maryland Stadium Authority (MSA) from $235 million to $1.2 billion. The Orioles home ballpark of Oriole Park at Camden Yards and the Ravens home stadium of M&T Bank Stadium would each be eligible for up to $600 million of bond debt for future improvements.

“We are extremely thankful to the Governor, leaders of the Maryland legislature, President of the Senate, Speaker of the House, Chair of the House Appropriations Committee and the Chair of the Senate Budget and Tax Committee, and all the members who voted for it, as well as the Mayor for all of his support,” MSA Chairman Thomas Kelso told SouthBMore.com. “We are also very thankful to the Orioles and Ravens and to the hundreds of people who either testified or wrote letters in support including organizations like Downtown Partnership, Greater Baltimore Committee, and the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore.”

Last month, Kelso told SouthBmore.com, “The Orioles lease expires very soon at the end of 2023, and the Ravens have five more years to go. Over the last three years, MSA Executive Director Michael Frenz and myself have been working together with teams on the most important things to them. No one is going to negotiate with us if we don’t have the money.”

“We have been taking a hard look at the stadiums. They are in really good conditions for their age, but need pretty good reinvestment to extend their lives for as long as possible. It’s better to reinvest in what we have instead of building new stadiums. We think we can prevent that with what we put in this bill,” continued Kelso.

Money to pay for debt on new bonds issued will be paid by the State Lottery Fund. The bill also extends the cap of eligible money from the State Lottery Fund from $20 million per year to $90 million per year.

The bill also states the duration of bonds cannot be longer than the duration of a stadium lease with either team.

Any bond money spent on future renovations at the stadiums must be approved by the MSA and budget committees in the Maryland State legislature. The Maryland Board of Public Works must then give final approval.

The bill does not prevent the teams or any third parties from investing in the stadiums. The Ravens have spent a total of approximately $220 million in stadium enhancements at M&T Bank Stadium since 1998.

Kelso said last month any detailed stadium renovation plans will be put forward by the Ravens or Orioles, and further noted that all improvements will look to improve the fan experience at the stadiums. He said improvements could include video and Wi-Fi improvements so fans can better follow their fantasy teams or adding private clubs, sports bars, and sports betting facilities within the stadiums.

“The idea is to make these stadiums economically-viable 365 days a year,” said Kelso.

He also mentioned better tying Oriole Park at Camden Yards to the Pratt St. Corridor and University of Maryland Baltimore, as well as tying M&T Bank Stadium into the Warner Street District developing south of the stadium.

He said the warehouse could be turned into more of a live/work/play building. He also noted there is the potential for a mixed-used development complex, but noted there still needs to be enough on-site parking available.

“The next step is that both teams need to work with companies that do stadium design, and they need to begin laying out to us what they’d like to do with the stadiums,” Kelso told SouthBMore.com this week. “And then our capital projects people will begin to analyze those requests, see how feasible they are, and see what they costs would be.”

Kelso said the teams may talk about concepts and plans this year, and that renovations would likely begin as early as 2024.

Ravens outgoing President Dick Cass said in January the team is considering upgrades such as “additional lower-bowl premium seating” and possibly a plaza south of the stadium that links it with the Warner Street District.

The Orioles are currently finishing up a $3.5-million project that alters the left field dimensions at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Orioles Chairman and CEO John Angelos released a letter to fans this week. Regarding HB 896, he said:

I am pleased to announce that over this weekend and on the eve of Opening Day in Baltimore, the Maryland State legislature passed an historic initiative committing $1.2 billion in public funding from the State of Maryland for reinvestment in and reimagination of the Camden Yards Sports Complex. This marks the second-largest public commitment of funding to a Major League Baseball public-private sports partnership, second only to the 2009 construction of the new Yankee Stadium.

He also added:

In a very short span of time, we can report that the franchise has a bright future, having secured the financial resources needed to reinvest in Oriole Park’s amenities, after breaking ground on an historic new training academy in the Dominican Republic, now paired with the best Spring Training and year-round training complex in Florida or Arizona at Ed Smith Stadium. We have also moved to the cutting edge of baseball analytics and player performance by investing in the best and brightest people, finest new state-of-the-art training facilities, and high-technology player development systems. On the entertainment front, we followed up hosting one iconic music artist in Billy Joel before the pandemic with an equally legendary performing force in Paul McCartney, as we aggressively remake the national image of Baltimore and Oriole Park at Camden Yards as a must-play destination for every world-class tour and marquee event. All the while, we continue to lead the league in fan and family-friendly pricing, atmosphere, and customer service and satisfaction for those making the baseball pilgrimage to Camden Yards.

About the Author:

Founder and Publisher of SouthBmore.com, longtime resident of South Baltimore, and a graduate of Towson University. Diehard Ravens and O's fan, father of three, amateur pizza chef, skateboarder, and "bar food" foodie. Email me at [email protected] and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.
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