When baseball commissioner Bud Selig said recently that Baltimore was a "very, very viable candidate" to host the 2016 All-Star Game at Camden Yards, those who have sought for the Midsummer Classic's return to the city for years received a boost to their hopes.
The Orioles organization isn't commenting publicly on Selig's words, however, because it doesn't want to be viewed as campaigning for the annual event, which has been held in Baltimore twice. The American League won, 9-3, in 1993 at Camden Yards in the second season of the stadium's existence. And the AL also won, 4-3, in 1958 at Memorial Stadium, four years after the club came to town from St. Louis.
Privately, though, the Orioles were encouraged by Selig's characterization of their chances, and the organization would be thrilled to again showcase the Inner Harbor and Camden Yards, which will be in its 25th season in 2016 and remains the model for new ballparks.
Having the All-Star Game in Baltimore would give the Orioles a chance to tout the team's turnaround from years of dismal results, as well as give an incentive with season-ticket packages for 2015 and 2016 if the club ties access to the event to longer season plans. And it would pump millions into the local economy, while giving Peter G. Angelos one of his biggest moments as Orioles owner on a national stage.
Selig, who is expected to retire in January 2015, said he would award the 2016 and 2017 games before leaving office. The commissioner selects the venue for each All-Star Game.
"I have great feelings for Baltimore," Selig said last week at the Civil Rights Game in Houston. "And I know they have [applied], and I just got done with the '15 All-Star Game, and I know I have to do '16 and '17."
The Orioles may not be willing to talk much about the chance of hosting baseball's All-Star Game at Camden Yards, but others are.
"It brings a visibility to the destination for numerous days leading into the event, during the event, post-event. But it also gives us a significant period, of 18-plus months, to be affiliated with one of the most iconic sporting events in the United States," said Terry Hasseltine, the director of the Maryland Office of Sports Marketing.
"It will bring tens of thousands of people to the Baltimore and Maryland [areas] for multiple-night stays that they can take advantage of our attractions, the hospitality infrastructure. We'll be able to showcase our world-class transportation system that drops off right at the ballpark," Hasseltine said. "There is a plethora of things this game does for the city of Baltimore. And also it rekindles the baseball spirit back into Baltimore on the national and, in this case, the international stage, because the All-Star Game is global."
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said she's "excited at the possibility" and welcomes further discussions about hosting the event in the city.
"It is the ultimate compliment to be considered a viable host site for the 2016 MLB All-Star Game. Baltimore City has demonstrated that we are an ideal location for large-scale sporting events and festivals," Rawlings-Blake said in a statement. "Not only will the All-Star Game provide an opportunity for Baltimore to continue to be a part of baseball history, but an opportunity to showcase our world-class stadium and boost the local economy."
Impact on business
Anirban Basu, the chairman and chief executive officer of Sage Policy Group, Inc., an economic and policy consulting firm in Baltimore, believes it's hard to put an exact dollar figure on the economic impact of the All-Star Game, but he said the event would have a lasting effect for the city.
"Much of the impact would not be quantifiable," Basu said. "I calculated before that the impact of a sellout at Camden Yards generally in the range of $3 million of net economic impact. Of course, this game will have far greater impact. Most of that impact would be in the form of publicity for Baltimore."
Donald C. Fry, the president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee, said he believes the biggest benefit for local businesses is the fact that "Baltimore is a very walkable city."
"It certainly adds a lot of out-of-town people coming to watch the game," Fry said. "You'll have a lot of activity at hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions. It's one of the summer highlights that people watch, and would certainly bring tremendous exposure for the city of Baltimore."
Major League Baseball keeps the revenues from All-Star Game ticket sales, parking and concessions, but a portion of revenues from the Home Run Derby are donated to charities in the host city.
This year's All-Star Game will be held in Minneapolis, with the 2015 game to be played in Cincinnati.
Basu said the Cincinnati Reds estimated that next year's game will inject around $60 million into the local economy, and he said he believes the All-Star Game would have a bigger impact in Baltimore than some larger cities.
"I do think that for a city like Baltimore, which is not a first-tier city like New York or San Francisco or Miami, that not many people are fully aware of what Baltimore has to offer as a visitor," Basu said. "Therefore, episodes in which the city is in the limelight become much more important because they move Baltimore closer to being first in mind. The All-Star Game helps to do that."
The 2016 game likely will be held Tuesday, July 12, though it's possible it could be moved back until Tuesday, July 19, depending on scheduling. There's no set time for Selig to make the announcement, though it's reasonable to surmise it will happen before this season ends in October.
"Obviously, the sooner we know, the more time we have available to us to execute everything we need to," Hasseltine said. "But as long as it is done during this active season, we should be in good position to execute all those things that go with delivering an MLB All-Star Game."
A possible obstacle
The Orioles' primary American League rival for the game seems to be Toronto, which last hosted one at the SkyDome (now Rogers Centre) in 1991. The other two AL teams that have gone longer without hosting the Midsummer Classic are the Oakland Athletics (1997) and Tampa Bay Rays (never). But MLB is not likely to showcase either of those stadiums — both areas would like to have new ballparks.
The one potential roadblock for Baltimore hosting in 2016 is that Washington, D.C., which hasn't been an All-Star Game site since 1969 at RFK Stadium, also wants the baseball showcase as soon as possible at Nationals Park.
If the pattern of alternating leagues continues, then Washington likely would be a candidate for 2017. So the commissioner's office would have to decide whether it wanted to hold the event in the same region in consecutive years — which it doesn't normally do.
"That's a tricky call, and I understand where the commissioner would be on that one," Hasseltine said. "Putting the All-Star Game in the same region in back-to-back years would be very challenging."
The most recent example of major league cities in fairly close proximity hosting consecutive All-Star events was in 2002 in Milwaukee and 2003 in Chicago. The last time it happened before that — and in the same state — was in Cincinnati in 1953 and Cleveland in 1954.
One way to avoid it, Hasseltine said, is for Selig to skip alternating leagues for one year — he did that in 2006 and 2007 when National League cities Pittsburgh and San Francisco were granted consecutive games — though Selig made it clear that he would like to continue that pattern.
"It might be a situation where the game could be in Baltimore in 2016, and maybe another American League city the next year, and then get back onto that every-other-year rotation [in 2018], if they wanted to stay outside of the region [in two straight years]," Hasseltine said.
Basu said that having the All-Star Game at Camden Yards would do wonders for the city's reputation for crime and its role in television shows such as "The Wire" and "Homicide: Life on the Street" in the past.
"Having the sporting world focus on Baltimore and its beautiful stadium and gorgeous downtown for three days has got to generate reputational enhancements," Basu said. "The fact of the matter is, presuming that Baltimore will host another All-Star Game, Baltimore will be a winner."
Baltimore Sun reporters Alejandro Zuniga and Yvonne Wenger contributed to this article.
Baseball in 1993
Orioles record: 85-77, 3rd in AL East
AL champion: Toronto Blue Jays
NL champion: Philadelphia Phillies
World Series champion: Blue Jays in six games
AL Most Valuable Player: Frank Thomas, Chicago White Sox
NL Most Valuable Player: Barry Bonds, San Francisco Giants
AL Cy Young: Jack McDowell, White Sox
NL Cy Young: Greg Maddux, Atlanta Braves
All-Star Game MVP: Kirby Puckett, Minnesota TwinsCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun