The Ravens plan to construct field-level suites near one of M&T Bank Stadium’s end zones, develop fan-friendly plazas outside their gates, move the press box upstairs, add shops and a garage, and dig out the rest of the stadium’s operations level so it rings the oval, according to a copy of the NFL team’s lease obtained by The Baltimore Sun.
The plans, contained in an exhibit attached to the new 50-page, 15-year lease, outline steps the club believes will upgrade the 25-year-old, 71,000-seat downtown stadium and extend its life.
The goal is “bringing our fans closer to the action and offering more hospitality so there are more amenities, more food, more spaces for people to socialize,” Ravens president Sashi Brown told The Sun last week in an interview that provided an overview of renovations.
The lease, which The Sun obtained under a Public Information Act request, provides the details. It lists nearly two dozen projects the team plans to collaborate on with the Maryland Stadium Authority, its landlord.
The initiatives include:
- Adding the field-level suites near the west end zone, on the Russell Street side of the stadium.
- Relocating the press box to near the top of the stadium. The media area, which currently overlooks the field from a sideline above the lower stands, provides some of the best vantage points to game action. Taking its place would be more suites.
- Adding the fan hospitality areas and retail stores to the north and south plazas and “fan experience elements” to the north plaza that faces Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
- Replacing or expanding parking Lot E, just south of the stadium, with the parking garage.
- Digging out the service level — the lowest level, which houses operations equipment and team locker rooms — so it rings the stadium instead of stopping partway around.
The next steps are for designers and engineers to map out the projects, which could be adjusted as planning proceeds. Construction is expected to begin in 2024, after the end of the team’s 2023 season. The lease doesn’t estimate costs, which are expected to total in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
A new state law allows the stadium authority to borrow up to $1.2 billion to pay for improvements at the two professional teams’ publicly owned stadiums in Baltimore: $600 million each for M&T Bank Stadium and Camden Yards. The cap limits only the amount of outstanding bonds at any one time. No bonds can be issued without a lease, and the lease has to be long enough to pay off the longest-term bonds.
The Ravens’ lease can be extended further for a total of 25 years. Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti and stadium authority chairman Thomas Kelso signed the document.
The Maryland Board of Public Works, which approved the lease last week, would need to approve the issuance of bonds and the construction contracts.
Part of the renovations’ aim, according to Brown, is to fulfill spectators’ desire to see and hear a game from the players’ perspective, rather than from suites high above the field. New field-level suites would help do that, and Brown said the expansion of the service level — which connects to the field — could open up additional, unspecified opportunities for fan access.
In 2018, the Ravens opened a small, field-level box, in partnership with Bud Light, with seating near one end zone and the tunnel visiting teams use to reach the field. Other NFL teams have moved in recent years to offer more expansive spaces — both seating and social areas — at field level.