The Orioles and representatives of Gov. Wes Moore said Friday they have reached agreement on a nonbinding “memorandum of understanding” — but not a lease — to keep the Orioles committed to Camden Yards for 30 years.
While representatives from the governor’s office and the team proclaimed Thursday night that there was a 30-year agreement, they acknowledged during a Friday morning briefing that no lease has been signed. They said an extension of the current lease for at least a year or two may be needed because both sides have not agreed to final terms yet.
Under the memorandum, the Orioles would cease paying rent to the state for Camden Yards but would assume responsibility for stadium operations and management.
The memorandum, which states the term of the agreement will be for 30 years, is not a legally binding document. Rather, the memorandum says it outlines “key components” of the team’s and stadium authority’s plans and remains subject to “additional modification.”
The document, which is eight pages long including the signature page, does contain specific terms covering such issues as rent, advertising signage, parking and ground lease approvals.
The memorandum says the lease will require the Orioles to play all home games at Camden Yards except for up to six regular season home games that may be played elsewhere under Major League Baseball rules.
After the 30 years ends, it says the Orioles would have the option to extend the agreement for two more five-year terms.
The details, discussed during a briefing with reporters, followed an announcement to fans during Thursday night’s Orioles game about an agreement.
“Earlier today, the Orioles, Governor Wes Moore and the State of Maryland, and the Maryland Stadium Authority agreed to a deal that will keep the Orioles in Baltimore and at Camden Yards for at least the next 30 years!!” the announcement said.
Moore and Orioles Chairman and CEO John Angelos were then shown together on the video board.
It’s unclear why the parties announced the 30-year deal publicly when it’s uncertain when a lease agreement will be reached. The parties said Friday that they had each signed the memorandum and would work diligently to sign a lease before the end of the year.
“I could not be more thrilled to spend decades watching the Orioles win titles in Baltimore,” Moore said in a news release. “This deal is not only a good use of state resources, but will also drive economic growth in downtown and across the city.”
Even with the memorandum, the Orioles will not be able to tap into a revolving, $600 million state fund for long-term stadium improvements until it signs a lease.
The memorandum of understanding includes a development rights agreement under which the Orioles would develop the land around Camden Yards — including the warehouse and Camden Station — that the state and team have long said are underutilized.
Under this part of the plan, the Orioles will pay $94 million in rent over the 99-year term of the agreement “and the state and the Orioles will work together on plans for the new development,” said the news release from the governor’s office. Paying rent on those properties is distinct from paying rent for the stadium itself, which the memorandum says would no longer occur.
The agreement means the Orioles would have rights to bring in private capital to invest in the area. Angelos has long advocated for development in the area so it is better used on nongame days.
Because public-private partnerships can be structured in many different ways, it is uncertain how much those rights might be worth to the Orioles.
The deal also would shift management of capital expenditures at the stadium itself from the state to the Orioles. The stadium authority would still play an “oversight” role and approve any new projects, the governor’s office said.
The governor’s release said that the proposed swap — the club stopping rent payments but taking over stadium operations and maintenance — would be a net gain for the state. It said the state would contribute a portion of the savings, $3.3 million per year, toward a safety and repair fund “to keep the stadium in top-notch condition.”
The Ravens have a similar, though not identical, arrangement under which they pay no rent but are responsible for stadium operation and maintenance.
The Orioles stadium rent is currently tied to a formula reflecting the team’s attendance and other factors.
During the pandemic — and a string of losing seasons before last year — the amount the team paid to the stadium authority dipped because the club was receiving substantially less money from ticket sales, advertising and other revenue sources, according to financial records.
As of last year, the club had paid an annual average of $6.7 million in rent. The team received a $593,413 discount in rent during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2022, according to records obtained in a Public Information Act request. The credit was granted by the stadium authority, in part to incentivize the Orioles to sign a new lease and further cement the team’s commitment to Baltimore.
The stadium authority and Board of Public Works will need to approve any new lease agreement.
Stadium Authority chairman Craig Thompson contacted board members over the last few days, telling them the announcement was coming and outlining the general lease discussions he will have going forward, according to two people familiar with the calls who declined to be named because the conversations were private.
The governor’s office, which characterized the memorandum as a breakthrough, released a series of statements from elected officials, business leaders and others applauding the agreement.
Among those listed were Democratic U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, four U.S. House members, and various local officials such as John Racanelli, the National Aquarium’s chief executive officer.
“We could not be more excited by the O’s amazing season, and we hope to keep lighting our pyramid orange right through the World Series,” Racenelli was quoted as saying.
The Orioles lease was originally set to expire at the end of 2021. In February of that year, the stadium authority and the club agreed on a two-year extension to expire at the end of this year.
On Jan. 31, Angelos floated an alternative proposal to Moore for another two-year lease extension. But the stadium authority balked at the request “because nobody understood why we couldn’t get a lease done in the remaining months before Dec. 31,” former stadium authority Tom Kelso said in an interview.
Baltimore Sun reporter Hayes Gardner contributed to this article.
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