The Maryland Stadium Authority agreed yesterday to move forward with the purchase of a new Mitsubishi video screen for Camden Yards despite objections from the Orioles.
Orioles officials say the DiamondVision screen is too small and technologically inadequate and plan to file a temporary restraining order in Baltimore Circuit Court today to block the $1.5 million purchase. The restraining order would give the Orioles time to move the dispute to arbitration as is called for in the team's lease for the stadium.
The sides tried to reach a compromise all week, but authority chairman Robert McKinney said his agency needed to move ahead or risk not having the screen installed by the Orioles' home opener in April.
"We think this is in the best interests of the fans, the state and the Orioles," he said. "We have to live up to our responsibility under the lease to provide a first-class video board for our fans."
Alan Rifkin, an attorney representing the Orioles, said the authority is rushing into a bad buy.
"It seems to be that the MSA is on a mission, for reasons that escape me, to fill a hole left by the JumboTron," he said. "It's pretty shortsighted."
McKinney defended the screen, noting that its picture resolution would be the best in baseball. The Mitsubishi screen would be similar to, though smaller than, the video display at Atlanta's Turner Field. It would feature a higher-resolution picture than the screens at M&T; Bank Stadium, McKinney said. The screen would be equipped to receive a high-definition picture, he added.
He emphasized that the screen, which will be about the size of the existing 23-by-31-foot JumboTron, could easily be expanded. But the Orioles and the authority also disagree over how the bill for any extra screen space should be divided. The Orioles say the authority should pay for it because the club's park lease promises facilities that are in the top 25 percent in Major League Baseball.
The authority believes it's required only to replace the JumboTron and any size enhancements should be paid for out of a $10 million fund allotted to the team for ballpark improvements.
McKinney emphasized that three Orioles officials sat on the committee that unanimously selected the Mitsubishi screen. The panel traveled to Miami, Atlanta and Montreal to examine options. But the team objected to the purchase at the last possible moment, McKinney said. He said the club wants a bigger screen and wants the authority to pay for it.
"It's a shame we couldn't have had these discussions when the process first started," he said.
The Orioles say their lease prevents the authority from purchasing the screen without club approval. They want to conduct a study of the park's audio and video needs before settling on a new screen.
Rifkin said the Mitsubishi screen could accommodate a high-definition picture, but only with a $2 million control room that no one has agreed to install or pay for. He added that the park's entire scoreboard is outdated.
"We're insistent here that the MSA has a responsibility to replace all the outdated facilities," he said.
If the Orioles receive their restraining order today, Rifkin said, arbitration hearings could be held in a matter of weeks.