Paul McCartney will perform at Camden Yards on June 12th, and Orioles Chairman and CEO John Angelos said on Friday that’s just the beginning of big events at the ballpark.
Angelos also expressed hope that the Orioles will play a full season and that a new stadium lease will be signed.
“They’re vitally important, and strange as this may sound, nothing else in terms of live events could be more important,” Angelos said in a Zoom interview after the announcement of the McCartney concert. “This is something you can control or try to influence
“You can go out beyond the baseball schedule if the ballclub wants to be active and proactive and entrepreneurial, which the Orioles do, and our management team is focused on, and essentially say we’re open for business and say Camden Yards is a world renowned venue, which it is, and Baltimore is a destination for first-class live entertainment, which we think it is.
“If you want to do that, and you want to put the time and resources behind that, which we do, you can bring in events.”
This is the second standalone concert at the ballpark. Billy Joel drew a sellout crowd in July 2019, and Angelos said he hoped to sign other big acts, including Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters.
“It’s incredibly important. It brings in extra revenue. It’s a way that a middle-market, small-market team can compete in a system where all payrolls are not the same.”
McCartney, 79, last played in Baltimore in 1964 with the Beatles at the then-called Baltimore Civic Center (Royal Farms Arena).
“You can’t do much better than Paul McCartney if you could do better at all,” Angelos said. “I don’t know where you would go for that.”
Angelos also talked a lot about baseball and said he hopes there will be a full 162-game season.
“I hope the season starts on time [March 31st],” he said. “I hope there’s a full schedule. That’s what the fans want. That’s what the players want. That’s what the teams what. The collective bargaining process is just that. It’s a process. The Orioles, and I’m not on the labor committee — we’re not involved directly in the negotiations, so I’d really like to leave that to the commissioner’s office and the owners that are on the labor relations committee and our friends at the players’ association.
“I’m hoping for the best just like all you are, but I can’t make any predictions. I think it would be good for Baltimore and baseball fandom to play.”
The Orioles and the Maryland Stadium Authority are continuing negotiations on a long-term lease. The Orioles, who are marking their 30th year at Camden Yards, are beginning the first year of a two-year lease, and Angelos would like to have a long-term lease completed by the time Maryland Governor Larry Hogan completes his second term next January.
“I can’t predict that, but I would say that the Orioles and the Maryland Stadium Authority have never at any point in time from the first minute I got together with and sat down with [MSA chairman] Tom Kelso, neither one of us has ever said anything other than ‘we can’t wait to extend and renew this public-private partnership … If we can do that during Governor Hogan’s term, I think that would be wonderful for everybody.
“I’m very optimistic, but I can’t predict that, either.”
Angelos said it’s preferable to have more than 81 baseball games at the ballpark.
“It’s better to have 83, 84, 85 events than 81,” Angelos said. “It’s better to bring another 40,000 or 50,000 or more people to downtown Baltimore. Baltimore is a great city and we need it, we need more people coming back downtown.”
Angelos said that in the next lease, he hopes to copy the partnership with Baltimore that team has with Sarasota, Florida, where it has trained since 2010.
“We really are partnered with the state, the county and the city and we drive nearly $100 million in economic impact a year,” he said. “If you went down and asked any of the stakeholders there, they would say, ‘it’s a public-private partnership with a memorandum of understanding.’ They wouldn’t use the word ‘lease.”
Since John and his brother, Louis, hired Mike Elias to oversee the Orioles’ rebuild in November 2018, the Orioles have lost more than 100 games in 2019 and 2021, the two full seasons. Angelos remains confident in Elias’ vision for the team.
“By most accounts the work that Mike, [assistant general manager Sig Mejdal and manager Brandon Hyde], the team there has done to build not only the present but the future in the international market, modernizing scouting and player development, investing in technology, all of those things that have moved us, in all accounts up the rankings … are all good indicators,” Angelos said.
“Nobody has guarantees. Nobody has a crystal ball. Certainly Mike and Sig and Brandon and the team are aspiring to get good results and get us back where we were a few years ago in terms of being competitive. I think all the news is good, and in terms of the prospects for the future, only time will tell.
“I don’t think Mike and his team or anyone else envisioned the rapid advancement in the perception of the talent in the Orioles’ scouting and player development system and some of that talent certainly comes from prior drafts that predate Mike, but other of the talent comes from Mike’s time here, and I think that the ascension of the perception of the system is nothing but a great thing. I’m really proud of what the team has accomplished, and I really think it’s going to be beneficial for Baltimore. I certainly hope it will be.”
In 2019, the Orioles drew 1,307,807, the fewest fans for a full season since 1978. Last season, they drew 793,229 when capacity was restricted to 25 percent in the first two months of the season.
“From 2012-2016 … I think what the Orioles were drawing to downtown Baltimore at the end of that five-year period of good play was a decent attendance, but I think we could have done better,” Angelos said.
In 2014, the year the Orioles won the American League East for the first time since 1997, they drew 2,464,473.
“I think we would have done better maybe if we explored best practices. You can always market better, sell better, prepare better, make the customer experience better.
“I look at that high point of 2012-2016 as not the highest point we could have reached then. That’s a good marker because that means if we do everything right or many, if not most things right, for the next five-year period of competitiveness, we can do even better than that.
“I don’t see why if we do things right, and are good stewards of the ballpark and the experience, and Mike does a great job with his team of what goes on between the lines, why shouldn’t we draw 2.5 million or more. Maybe significantly more. That’s certainly the aspiration. Whether we get there, we’ll see.”
McCartney tickets: American Express cardholders can buy McCartney tickets from 10 a.m. February 22nd through Thursday February 24th at 10 p.m. Birdland members can purchase tickets on February 24th, and the general public can purchase tickets on February 25th at 10 a.m.
Orioles season ticket-holders must renew their memberships by February 23rd for access to the pre-sale.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB