Two years ago, the Orioles’ lease on Camden Yards was set to expire at the end of 2021. On February 8th, 2021, the team signed a two-year extension, which expires at the end of this year. The Orioles also have a one-time option, which must be exercised by Wednesday to extend their lease for five years.
That deadline has caused Oriole fans to worry, just as they did two years ago. The Orioles have not agreed to a new long-term lease for Camden Yards nor have they explained the reason for the delay.
On January 16th, Orioles Chairman and CEO John Angelos said the team will stay in Baltimore.
“The Orioles are going to be here for the long-term,” Angelos said. “We have been here and I’ve said many times, publicly, unsolicited, unprompted, we’re never going anywhere.”
Two days after Angelos’ declaration, Wes Moore became Maryland’s governor and he’ll replace Thomas Kelso, who was former governor Larry Hogan’s appointed head of the Maryland Stadium Commission. Kelso will stay on until there’s a new chair confirmed by the state legislature, which is likely to happen by mid-April.
“The Orioles will continue to work with the Stadium Authority, Tom Kelso and the next administration. I count [Baltimore City Brandon Scott] and Wes Moore as my personal friends,” Angelos said last month. “We’re going to get this done for just about every reason. We’re all local people who have the best of intentions. Fear not, the Orioles will be here.”
Last year, the legislature passed a bill setting aside $1.2 billion in improvements for Oriole Park and M&T Bank Stadium. The Ravens have agreed on a lease extension, but the Orioles have not.
It doesn’t appear that the lawsuit between Louis Angelos against John and their mother, Georgia, is the reason. That suit wasn’t filed until last June, and negotiations for the lease had been under way and described by both sides as productive.
The Orioles’ plans might have something to do with it. They want to address shortcomings, such as the outdated scoreboard and sound system, but could make major changes to the seating areas. John Angelos also has talked about adding retail stores, perhaps a hotel and housing to the area around the stadium.
Whatever the reason for the delay, fans are eager for a long-term lease or, at a minimum, the five-year extension.
If the option for the extension is exercised, that would delay the Orioles’ plans for substantial changes. They can only tap into the $600 million earmarked for the team with a long-term extension.
The talk has older fans remembering the Colts’ departure from Baltimore in 1984, but the teams’ circumstances couldn’t be more different.
The Colts and Orioles then shared an aging Memorial Stadium, and there were no concrete plans for its replacement. The Colts were owned by Robert Irsay, who had no ties to Baltimore. Cities romanced Irsay, and he could have moved the Colts to Birmingham, Memphis or Phoenix, but chose Indianapolis. The NFL didn’t try to stop Irsay’s move, having been stung by the Raiders’ Al Davis, who was initially blocked from moving from Oakland to Los Angeles but was granted his request after filing an antitrust suit against the NFL.
Last month, Angelos pledged $5 million to CollegeBound, a program to help Baltimore City school children get into college and graduate. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred also has made a commitment to Baltimore. “As long as I have this job, I think you can count on the fact that the Orioles are going to be in Baltimore,” he said at the Winter Meetings in San Diego on December 6th.
Unlike the NFL, MLB has been loathe to allow teams to move, and there aren’t cities lining up with major league-ready stadiums ready to coax franchises to move.
In the last 51 years, Montreal’s move to Washington is the only move that has been permitted by baseball, though if there’s not considerable progress made on a new stadium in Oakland, Las Vegas could snag the Athletics.
Oakland’s stadium is by far the worst in baseball while Camden Yards remains one of its best.
With an improving, attractive young team, Orioles’ attendance should be up markedly this season, long-term lease or not.
This weekend, the Orioles are bringing most of their top-shelf players to participate in their Birdland Caravan to help rekindle fan interest in the region.
The guess here is that the Orioles soon will agree to another short-term extension, but the hope is that they’ll sign a 30-year lease and a revitalized Camden Yards will be their home for decades to come.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB