BALTIMORE—After 26 years, the Orioles will hold their first concert when Billy Joel performs on July 26.
Since Oriole Park at Camden Yards opened in 1992, the Orioles haven’t held any stand-alone concerts. The most prominent non-sports event was when Pope John Paul II held Mass on Oct. 8, 1995.
Brothers John and Louis Angelos, who have been running the Orioles because of the declining health of their father, Peter, have initiated a number of changes, and the concert is the first event held by Orioles Entertainment.
“This is the perfect marriage of baseball and live music,” Orioles Executive Vice President John Angelos said. “You want to try and touch people in different ways and give people additional reasons to come to the ballpark.”
Joel has played in ballparks for years, but LiveNation, which is partnering with the Orioles on the event, made it a priority to bring him to Baltimore.
“It’s been our dream to play Camden Yards,” said Wilson Howard, the chief operating officer for Live Nation Baltimore/DC/VA.
John Angelos said his goal is to hold many concerts at Oriole Park. Last year, brief Friday night concerts before and after games were held to test the field and public interest.
“You want to get the first one going,” Angelos said. “You want it to be a great act … Then we’ll see.”
Last season, Angelos said the team focused on “emerging artists” for those Friday night spots, and he left open the possibility of postgame shows for Saturday nights for bigger-name performers. For many years, the Tampa Bay Rays have featured well-known artists on Saturday nights.
“It all registers the same bottom line,” Angelos said. “To get people coming here, sampling baseball, coming to Camden Yards, going to the harbor and being in Baltimore.”
Some see the Orioles branching out because of the team’s rebuiliding effort.
“If you can get somebody coming here for Billy Joel … all different genres of music, a lot of those people are baseball fans,” Angelos said. “If you can introduce someone to music through baseball or baseball from music, why wouldn’t you do that? I think you do that in a down year, a middle year or an up year on the field. I think it’s something you do because we’re in the entertainment business.”
As a lifelong Baltimorean, Angelos feels a strong commitment to the city.
“In a lot of ways, I think we owe it to the city and the state to work it for all we can and get people down here,” Angelos said.
Even before last year’s disastrous season in which the Orioles lost 115 games, attendance began to drop. After drawing 2.46 million in 2014, attendance fell. Last year it was 1.56 million, a 40-year low for a full season.
Angelos is aware of the perception that downtown Baltimore is unsafe, but wants to look at it another way.
“It’s more important to fight for a perception than against one,” Angelos said. “It’s good to tell the good story about Baltimore. I know people have been concerned through the years about some of the storylines and some of the realities.
“…I think we should focus on telling all the good stories. Why are so many people coming to Baltimore for all these years? What does Baltimore have to offer?”
Angelos points out that more than 2 million people come to Orioles and Ravens games, and attendance at Royal Farms Arena for events is robust.
“Millions of people are coming to downtown Baltimore,” Angelos said. “The task is to tell the good points, get the story out there and then create events that bring people down, and I think you start to get some momentum the other way on safety as well.”
Tickets for the concert will go on sale Jan. 18. According to the co-promoter, LiveNation, capacity is expected to be about 37,000.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB
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