Updating Oriole Park at Camden Yards?; Servideo has team ties; Credits for ticketholders - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Updating Oriole Park at Camden Yards?; Servideo has team ties; Credits for ticketholders

Photo Credit; Joy R. Absalon

The pandemic has presented unique challenges for the Orioles. A season without fans and the uncertainty of 2021 won’t help declining attendance, which has dropped about 47 percent since 2014.

As reported by The Baltimore Sun, the Orioles and the Maryland Stadium Authority are discussing a new lease, a deal that could fundamentally change Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

The 30-year lease expires at the end of the 2021 season, and while the ballpark is still one of the jewels in major league baseball, it could use upgrades—large and small.

Declining attendance can be attributed to the Orioles’ play on the field, but another factor, which the club can’t control, is the incorrect perception that downtown Baltimore is an unsafe place to visit.

The Ravens, who play in adjacent M&T Bank Stadium, regularly sell out and experienced a renaissance with the play of Lamar Jackson. Fans don’t seem to feel unsafe there.

In 2014, the year the Orioles won their first American League East title since 1997, 2,464,473 fans came to games. In 2015, the year of the disturbances in the city, attendance fell by 183,271. In 2016, when the Orioles reached the AL wild-card game, it fell again by 108,858.

From 2017-2019, attendance fell markedly each season, and last year’s 1,307,807 was the lowest full-season mark in the history of Oriole Park, and the smallest since 1,051,724 at Memorial Stadium in 1978.

While the Orioles can’t control the perception that downtown isn’t safe, they are apparently trying to make the ballpark a more modern and attractive one.

There are small things that need to be done to Camden Yards. The scoreboard is tiny when compared with nearly all ballparks around the majors. The concessions, other than Boog’s Barbecue, aren’t tempting.

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But the essence of the ballpark remains. It’s still charming and a lovely place to watch a game.

How fans watch games has changed since 1992 when Oriole Park opened.

Including Tropicana Field, which opened in 1990 but didn’t host the Rays until 1998, 21 of MLB stadiums are newer than Camden Yards.

Two teams, the Atlanta Braves and Texas Rangers, have cycled through stadiums that were built before Oriole Park and opened new homes. (Texas’ Globe Life Field’s opening has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.)

When Camden Yards opened, the Orioles regularly played before sellout crowds. In 2019, the Orioles only sold out Opening Day.

The capacity of 45,971 is now the eighth largest in baseball, and the four newest parks — Minnesota’s Target Field, Miami’s Marlins Park, Atlanta’s Truist Park and Globe Life Field — have seating capacities of around 40,000.

Another factor the Orioles can’t control is the lack of large companies in Baltimore. Not a single Fortune 500 company is located in the Baltimore region, and as a result, it’s difficult to sell many of the suites on the club level.

Perhaps fewer unsold seats, and wider, more open concourses would make the stadium more attractive. The Sun story mentioned the possibility of a restaurant or bar to make the stadium more of an attraction when there’s not baseball being played.

Although there are some appealing sports bars just across the street from the ballpark, there aren’t many top-rated restaurants nearby.

Unfortunately, Harborplace, which was a hot attraction when Oriole Park opened, is no longer a tourist magnet. The most appealing areas to eat and drink, Federal Hill and Harbor East, aren’t in the immediate neighborhood.

If the Orioles had an attractive bar or restaurant, that could help spur downtown tourism. Another idea is having more events at the park.

The only two non-baseball events in Oriole Park’s history were Pope John Paul II’s Mass in 1995 and last year’s Billy Joel concert.

Perhaps after pandemic fears lift, additional concerts can be booked.

The idea of a long-term lease would end the chatter of the team moving elsewhere.

The best endorsement of Camden Yards is that while the Braves and Rangers felt they needed entirely new stadiums, the Orioles’ home, with some remodeling, could be a showplace for decades to come.

Servideo has an Orioles connection: Anthony Servideo, the Orioles’ third-round selection in last week’s draft, has a connection with the team. Servideo, a shortstop who played for the University of Mississippi, is the grandson of Curt Blefary, who was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1965 and played for the 1966 World Series winners.

Blefary played four seasons with the Orioles and was traded after the 1968 season to Houston in a deal that brought pitcher Mike Cuellar to Baltimore.

Servideo wasn’t even 2 when his grandfather died. His relatives have passed along their remembrances.

“My mom and my uncle and my grandma all told me stories,” Servideo said. “I would ask about him almost every time I saw them, and it’s cool. We have a lot of pictures of him and memorabilia.

“Growing up, he’s been my idol, and I want to follow in his footsteps. Hopefully, be a better player than he was.”

Orioles offer ticketholders credit: In an email sent to season ticketholders, the Orioles announced that tickets through July 1 can be exchanged for 125 percent of their current value. Previously, they had announced that policy for games of March, April and May.

Tickets can be exchanged for 2020, 2021 or 2022 home games. Refunds are also available.

This is in addition to last week’s announcement that Orioles’ minor leaguers would continue to receive their $400 weekly stipend through the end of the regular minor league season.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

42 Comments

42 Comments

  1. Orial

    June 16, 2020 at 8:27 am

    Morning Rich. Just curious but what would the reason(s) for Baltimore’s lack of Fortune 500 companies be? Was there a time it thrived? Seems difficult to build a strong base with the lack of that support behind ya. Without getting political how do you get a downtown financial revival in process? The Ravens have the NFL to help it along. The O’s and the rest of MLB teams seem to be on there own leaning on local support(another big difference between the two sports).

    • Rich Dubroff

      June 16, 2020 at 10:54 am

      The economy changed. Bethlehem Steel once employed 30,000 workers. General Motors had a large plant, Orial.

      Some of the large banks and brokerage houses were bought by larger corporate entities.

      I think that a consistently good team, one that was a contender for more than a few years would help tremendously.

  2. Phil770

    June 16, 2020 at 8:40 am

    Rich, good to hear about the lease extension talks. I will say that perceived safety affecting attendance is a bigger issue than you described. Not huge, a better product on the field will help the most, as would improved WiFi, concessions, e al. Comparing OPACY to M&T doesn’t seem to be fair, 81 games, mostly at night versus 9 or 10 games mostly during the day. Certainly safety is not a primary reason for attendance decline, but needs to considered as part of making coming to the ballpark a great experience.

    • Rich Dubroff

      June 16, 2020 at 10:58 am

      Phil, thank you for your comments.

      I think the safety issue is a huge one, but it’s perception, and an incorrect one.

      Having a consistent contender is more important. I remember people saying the area around Yankee Stadium was unsafe in the early 1970s. Remarkably, it got safer when the team became compelling.

      • Phil770

        June 16, 2020 at 3:22 pm

        The law of large numbers rule. O’s are in a rebuild, the team on the field is likely to continue to struggle, so attendance is unlikely to improve. As you noted, even with a better product, earlier this decade, attendance dropped from one year to the next. I have long-time Oriole fans who are friends and they tell me that they don’t go to games because they don’t feel safe. They feel that they have valid examples. As they say “perception is reality”, O’s need to address, but just one of the items. St. Louis’ stadium is similar to a location such as Camden Yards, they draw fans.

        I am amazed at the bitterness toward PA, some folks won’t go games and they blame him, just because.

      • willmiranda

        June 16, 2020 at 3:50 pm

        Yankee Stadium and the general site got a massive renovation in 1973-75 that cleared and brightened up the area. I think that helped make it in perception and reality a safer place. I can’t comment on the Baltimore situation today, but I don’t think people’s unease should be dismissed as hallucinatory. Within the castle walls may be very secure, but if you have to swim a moat full of
        sharks to get there,……

  3. Eldersburg Enigma

    June 16, 2020 at 8:53 am

    Add another scoreboard somewhere (if sitting in the Eutaw Street Reserve seats, you cannot see the main scoreboard and there you miss replays and between innings entertainment). Change every other concession stand to offer food besides hot dogs and popcorn. The changes needed are not dramatic.

    • Rich Dubroff

      June 16, 2020 at 10:58 am

      Interesting thoughts, enigma.

  4. Tles32

    June 16, 2020 at 9:28 am

    Maybe if they would widen the seats and put a better product on the field. Also we stayed at hotel across the street from stadium. Was told not to walk at night. Better restaurants and more sports bars would help. I do have to admit some of the Orioles offers to come back to more games have helped. On field access coupons to Boogs and other goodies also helped.

    • Rich Dubroff

      June 16, 2020 at 10:59 am

      Good thoughts, tles.

  5. Bancells Moustache

    June 16, 2020 at 11:09 am

    I’m sorry Rich, but to imply people are incorrect for feeling unsafe in Baltimore, downtown or otherwise, is absurd.

    I’ve never understood professional sports obsession with bigger more massive video boards. I came to the game to see it in the flesh. If I wanted to watch it on a screen I’d stay home.

    • Rich Dubroff

      June 16, 2020 at 11:18 am

      Bancells, the information displayed on new scoreboards is helpful. Pitch counts, pitch speed, analytic information, twitter handles are all good.

      Late last year, the Orioles added OPS next to batting average on the board. That’s fine, but it’s so small it’s hard to read. A new scoreboard would solve that.

      Most people go to the ballpark and don’t eat and drink downtown. The ballpark and immediate surrounding area is well-policed and generally safe.

      I live less than two miles from the ballpark, and I know what areas to avoid, and the immediate area is fine. The key is getting more attractive dining and drinking choices downtown.

    • OriolesNumber1Fan

      June 16, 2020 at 12:02 pm

      I have to agree with the safety issue. Especially going to the ballpark at night when I constantly read articles in the Baltimore Sun such as the following: https://www.baltimoresun.com/news/crime/bs-md-ci-cr-christopher-earl-attempted-murder-20200615-ckbf7p4pybbn7ozeaqfgk6smf4-story.html
      I live in NY and regarding Yank stadium I watched an older world series game recently against the Dodgers on ESPN or MLB network and they showed a burning building in the background while showing the score between innings going to a commercial. I believe it was from the Goodyear blimp.

  6. whiterose

    June 16, 2020 at 1:01 pm

    Nothing new here. The threat of leaving is still there. why wail until one year left on lease.

    • Rich Dubroff

      June 16, 2020 at 2:19 pm

      There is no threat of moving. Please show me another city that in these economic times that would build a new stadium. And a new stadium wouldn’t be better than what they currently have.

  7. Shamus

    June 16, 2020 at 1:41 pm

    Orioles play a lot of games in the evening ….. Ravens do not …. incorrect perception that the city is unsafe???? Where do you live ?

    • Rich Dubroff

      June 16, 2020 at 2:23 pm

      I live less than two miles from the ballpark. I’m referring to the immediate area surrounding the ballpark.

  8. CalsPals

    June 16, 2020 at 4:13 pm

    My wife & I were in Baltimore last July, stayed at a hotel within walking distance, went three games & had a wonderful time, walked down Eutaw street & had crab cakes, would do it again…go O’s…

    • Rich Dubroff

      June 16, 2020 at 4:56 pm

      I hope you get the chance, Ray.

  9. mlbbirdfan

    June 16, 2020 at 7:59 pm

    So Rich, what exactly is your perception of safety downtown and where do you get it from? Apparently, you get it from the space between your place of residence to the ballpark. I hope you have a broader view. But I don’t know because you didn’t say. I grew up in Baltimore and I have been an Orioles fan for more than 60 years. I am part of a season ticket partnership. For many years I attended two dozen games per season. Now, fewer games. I sell my tickets when I can, for face value. I assure you, the perception of lack of safety in downtown Baltimore is real. Sometimes I walk from the casino to the stadium. It’s not fun in the dark. I agree, the product on the field is a significant driver of attendance decline. But if you do not recognize downtown Baltimore has a major safety issue, you are living in a bubble my friend.

    • Rich Dubroff

      June 16, 2020 at 8:20 pm

      Birdfan,

      I live two miles from the ballpark, and I believe the ballpark and the streets immediately surrounding the park are well-policed. As a 40-year resident of the city, I know plenty about crime.

      I know the neighborhoods of the city well, and know what’s safe and what isn’t. Yes, there are areas several blocks from the ballpark where I wouldn’t walk, but I think the ballpark area and parking lots are safe. I’m sure that walking from the Horseshoe to the ballpark at night may not be safe, but I’m referring to the immediate area around it.

      • Phil770

        June 17, 2020 at 10:03 am

        You confirm my point, the are around Busch Stadium is not any safer than OPCY, but the competitive team draws large crowds regularly. Ballpark Village also draws crowds before, after and even when there are no games. Product on the field is crucial, but the experience of attending games, including feeling safe, enjoying food, watch replays, stay up with other games, etc. Are all connected.

  10. TxBirdFan

    June 16, 2020 at 8:32 pm

    I don’t live in Baltimore but a bad team plus a dangerous city is a deadly combination, even if it’s perception. Somebody mentioned St Louis which isn’t a fair compare. They always have a competitive team and the area around the ballpark is relatively safe. Other parts of the city are not but it’s extremely unlikely that you would find yourself there. I have a home in StL and never hesitate to go see a game. Since the O’s won’t have a competitive team for several years it’s imperative that the city clean up the area. Is Mayor Schaefer still around?

    • Rich Dubroff

      June 16, 2020 at 9:29 pm

      William Donald Schaefer, who was last mayor of Baltimore in 1987, died in 2011. He became governor of Maryland and then comptrollor of Maryland after leaving office, Tx.

      The Cardinals are a good comparison because it’s a similar size city, and the Orioles would like to be consistently competitive like they are.

  11. mlbbirdfan

    June 16, 2020 at 8:36 pm

    “There are areas several blocks from the ballpark where (you Rich) wouldn’t walk”. Which blocks? And why would you not walk there? As long as I park on the Camden yards lot, I do feel safe. When the Birds were selling out every night, it was often impossible to do that. Maybe 20 years ago, it was somewhat “safer” to park several blocks away. Not anymore. Basically, you are saying it is safe to go inside the ballpark if you park in the Camden Yards Parking lot. That is NOT a cogent marketing position!

    • Rich Dubroff

      June 16, 2020 at 9:30 pm

      I’m not marketing the team, the stadium nor the city, mlb. Most fans park in the lots surrounding the ballpark. Some don’t. If the team becomes more competitive, I’m sure crowds would return.

  12. dlgruber1

    June 16, 2020 at 8:51 pm

    Changing the subject, if you don’t mind. Last week, as the MLB draft was starting, commissioner Manfred said he was confident there would be baseball this year. I wake up today to see an article in my local paper (Hbg. Patriot-News) where Manfred says he’s not confident of a season in 2020. Any ideas why he ever said a week ago he was confident?

    • Rich Dubroff

      June 16, 2020 at 9:31 pm

      I’m certainly ok with changing the subject, dl. Perhaps Manfred, who I’ll write about tomorrow, thought the players would compromise after the owners latest offer. There are reports that a number of owners feel they’ll lose less money if they don’t play than if they play. That would be a disaster.

  13. whiterose

    June 16, 2020 at 9:35 pm

    Whoa! I never said or even implied anything about a new stadium. That is not why they would leave.
    and the “threat” is the obvious circumstances, not a threat directly from the team.

    • Rich Dubroff

      June 16, 2020 at 9:43 pm

      Teams almost always leave because of their stadium situations. As I’ve told you repeatedly, they want to stay, and will stay.

  14. Birdman

    June 16, 2020 at 10:37 pm

    Rich, not to belabor the point, but I think the intensity of the comments reflect the fact that there is a widespread fear of crime in downtown Baltimore, and it is a major factor, along with the team’s poor play, in causing the dramatic decline in attendance. While some perceptions about crime in the “immediate” area of the stadium may not be accurate, I don’t think there is any question that much of downtown, including the Inner Harbor/Harborplace area, is a more dangerous place, especially at night, than it was in the 1990s and early 2000s. No doubt a better product on the field will attract more fans, but unfortunately the fear of crime will remain a big drag on attendance.

    • Rich Dubroff

      June 16, 2020 at 10:59 pm

      Bird, I wouldn’t mind seeing that better product—or any product—on the field soon.

  15. BirdsCaps

    June 17, 2020 at 2:07 am

    While I’m concerned about the city’s violent crime problem, I never felt unsafe walking from Camden yards to the parking garage at the arena or the one next to it. There is a huge police presence and the only time that I can recall there were serious issues was before the 2015 riots. The issue of large corporations is an issue that is prominent in rust belt cities that haven’t been taken over by other industries (Pittsburgh and health care). Furthermore, (I’m sure I’ll get hate here), businesses and people see Baltimore as a (at least partially) crime ridden city with old infrastructure and institutions. Why go there when there is the newer, shinier, sun belt cities with newer institutions, infrastructure, and lower crime? Gonna stop there at describing the city part of the attendance problem (since this is a largely non political baseball blog I tried to explain the problem and not get into the weeds/policy decisions) and say a good team fixes this( 2012-2016 The yard was rocking).

  16. VegasOriole

    June 17, 2020 at 10:56 am

    Rich, I like the concessions. I think the team has been doing pretty well in bringing local restaurants in, I got some surprisingly good helotes(street corn) last year. Delaware North does a good job as well, but yeah—hot dogs pretzels popcorn and nachos are repeatedly offered, but this is the case at most parks as well. I usually stay at the Holiday Inn which is less than two blocks from center field. Last year I stayed at the Staybridge near the harbor, and the walk was sketchy for a bit. The crowds help, as safety in numbers would deter possible criminal activity. I started treking out there in 2015(after 12 years!) and was surprised by the harborplace. I had remembered it being alot nicer as a kid. The harbor had a bunch of trash floating in it, and the whole place just looked dead and uninviting. Even Phillips disappointed me, and Bubba Gumps was even worse(now we go to Fells Point for food). The scoreboard isnt a big deal to me, but I do see it as inferior to other stadiums. As far as a bar in OPACY, thats a hard pass. I don’t care for the drunk knuckleheads it brings, though I’m open for change.
    In my experiences at other parks these bars dont add to the stadium. Great article again Rich, hopefully next article is about all the undrafted pitching talent we sign soon, lol!

  17. Raveonjo

    June 17, 2020 at 11:53 am

    The immediate Camden Yards area may be safe, but getting to and from the ballpark is where the real, not perceived, dangers are. Remember, this ballpark was built to make it easy for fans coming from the south. Now those fans have the Nationals. I live in Hunt Valley, and whether I take Howard St, Charles, Gay or President Street I’m bound to be stopped at a light where I’ve seen squeegee men and those clearly under the influence of some toxin, not to mention the porn shops on the corner of Gay and Baltimore.

    Camden Yards was a great location for a regional ballpark serving the District, Maryland and Virginia, but with the arrival of the Expos, that location is no longer ideal.

    • Rich Dubroff

      June 17, 2020 at 1:33 pm

      Where would an ideal location be, Raveonjo?

      • Raveonjo

        June 18, 2020 at 9:57 am

        That’s a difficult question to answer.

    • whiterose

      June 17, 2020 at 10:17 pm

      Hunt Valley ? Light Rail ?
      forgot PA?

    • mlbbirdfan

      July 8, 2020 at 2:16 pm

      There’s no “ideal” downtown location. We are blessed to have a downtown stadium that is the envy of all of the major league baseball. That does not mean it is safe to walk in the neighborhoods around the ballpark.

  18. orion1782

    June 17, 2020 at 6:29 pm

    Great article Rich. I think you’re right that some creative thinking needs to be done on the future of the stadium and what can be done to keep it fresh and competitive with other newer stadiums. Going to a game where you can have open concourses and see the field is great- it’s one of the biggest drawbacks of Camden Yards where you leave the scene of the game completely to use the rest room or get a beer. I’d say removing several thousand seats and (where possible) getting a 360 degree usage of the stadium with updated sight lines. It’s not a national landmark, it should be refreshed from time to time with some serious money.

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