The Sports Legends Museum, which abruptly closed Monday at Camden Station, owed the state more than $300,000, having fallen behind in rent for a second time since opening a decade ago next to Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

The museum had paid no rent since September 2014 and owed the Maryland Stadium Authority $306,745 in rent and other fees, Michael Frenz, the stadium authority's executive director, said Wednesday.


"Under normal circumstances, we would have taken legal action against a tenant that was that far [behind]," Frenz said, but the museum was seeking state and private funds to help cover operations and back rent. "That's one of the reasons we let it go as long as we did."

The museum's lease ended in April. The state was asked by Baltimore's tourism arm to allow the sports history museum to stay open until the end of the summer.

"We were asked by Visit Baltimore not to close during the baseball season," Frenz said.

The museum is "aggressively" pursuing new sites and will be meeting with its exhibit designer to consider potential locations, said Mike Gibbons, executive director of the Babe Ruth Birthplace Foundation, which runs the sports museum.

"My hope is we'll have an announcement on a new location shortly," Gibbons said.

He said the issue of unpaid rent "needs to be worked out with the Maryland Stadium Authority and us, and there have been no specific negotiations. We had suggested we'd pay some of the back rent that we owe, and ultimately that proposal was rejected. We are now in the process of moving, but I'm certain there will be discussions about this back rent issue."

Gibbons noted that while some attractions in the city pay no rent or minimal rent, the museum has paid the state about $1.8 million over a decade.

In testimony before the state legislature this year, Gibbons said the attraction has faced challenges such as declining Orioles attendance, restrictions on parking and signage, and the underperformance of the Hilton hotel.

The museum, which hosts about 40,000 to 70,000 visitors a year, had been seeking money to renovate the structure to allow it to host bigger events, add a sports bar or restaurant and upgrade its signs. That funding was contingent on renewing a lease.

John A. Moag Jr., the museum's board chair, said the stadium authority failed to follow through on a plan, discussed last November during a meeting with former Gov. Martin O'Malley and stadium authority officials, to help the museum by allowing rent to be forgiven from September 2014 through June of this year.

Then an agreement presented to the museum in January, after O'Malley had left office, offered no rent forgiveness, Moag said.

"Legally, they are right, because on paper, they never consummated the agreement," Moag said. "We acted in good faith. We trusted them. We took them at their word."

Frenz, however, said a plan discussed earlier this year would have given the museum time to pursue state or corporate funding to pay the back rent and allowed the museum to stay until June 30 while doing so.

Any plan to forgive rent would have had to be approved by the Board of Public Works, he said.


Frenz said lease negotiations between the state and the foundation ultimately ended over a disagreement over the length of the lease — the state wanted to offer no more than 12 months.

The museum had signed a 20-year-lease in 2005, but two years later the stadium authority agreed to forgive $444,000 in back rent, lower the museum's $28,000 monthly rent and reduce the length of the lease to five years.

Because the state has invested $1.97 million in the museum over the years — including the forgiven rent and grants for improvements, operating expenses and renovations — the stadium authority was negotiating a lease with the expectation that further state support would be forthcoming, Frenz said.

But ultimately the state wanted a shorter lease to allow for more flexibility by September 2016, when the lease ends for Geppi's Entertainment Museum, another tenant at the 1856 Camden train depot. The stadium authority has put out a request for prospective tenants to lease the state-owned property, which is due at the end of the month.

"We will look at the building in light of the changes over 10 years, in consultation with the team and the city, what's the best use," in the hopes of having a new tenant in a year, Frenz said. The building might attract a single tenant, or could be used for more than one, he said.

He said the stadium authority is finalizing a lease that will allow the current gift shop to remain at Camden Station through next September. The gift shop had been subleasing from the museum — an arrangement the state only recently became aware of, Frenz said.

Rent from that sublease that should have gone to the state is included in the more than $300,000 owed, he said.