The Orioles will host a stand-alone concert at Camden Yards for the third time ever this Saturday and, once again, the ballclub will stand to earn all of the profits from the event, rather than sharing any with the ballpark’s owner, the state of Maryland.
Rock icon Bruce Springsteen will play Saturday at Oriole Park. As landlord, the Maryland Stadium Authority could receive 45% of the profits (or suffer 45% of the losses) from the event, which is hosted by its tenant, the MLB team. However, the Orioles asked the state not to share in the revenues, which would allow the team to keep all profits from the concert, and the stadium authority board unanimously agreed Tuesday.
The state would likely make hundreds of thousands of dollars from opting into the event, which is close to being a sellout. But in an effort to encourage the club to host more events, the stadium authority agreed to the Orioles’ request. The Orioles have told the authority that sharing such revenues is a “significant disincentive” for them to host concerts, stadium authority Executive Director Michael Frenz told the board Tuesday.
“From our perspective, we do want there to be more of these,” he told The Baltimore Sun after the meeting, held at the Camden Yards warehouse.
Last year, the General Assembly passed a law allowing for at least $600 million in state bonds to improve Oriole Park (provided the Orioles sign a long-term lease with the state, which has not yet happened). The concert revenue marks additional money that could have had a public use but is instead going to the privately owned ballclub.
The Orioles declined to answer questions Friday from The Sun regarding the concert, which will feature Springsteen and the E Street Band. It’s Springsteen’s second Baltimore show this year; he played in April at the opening of the reconstructed CFG Bank Arena.
The MLB club’s ask and the authority’s decision come as the two parties continue lease negotiations. The Orioles agreed to a 30-year lease with the authority, beginning in 1992, to play at Camden Yards. In that agreement’s final year, 2021, the two sides agreed to extend it until Dec. 31, 2023. Now, there are just under four months until the lease expires.
The negotiations have faced challenges. Orioles Chairman and CEO John Angelos requested the development rights to three state-owned parking lots — used by the Ravens and Orioles — and sought an additional $300 million from the state, sources told The Sun.
Democratic Gov. Wes Moore said last week that the negotiations with the Orioles will produce not only a new stadium lease, binding the team to Baltimore for years, but a redevelopment road map benefiting the city and state.
Orioles owner Peter Angelos, who bought the team in 1993, never sought to host concerts at Oriole Park, which is among the most revered ballparks in baseball. He told The Sun in 2000 he was “not going to have it become some kind of honky tonk for various and sundry rock ‘n’ roll bands.”
Angelos, 94, no longer makes decisions for the club. His son, John Angelos, however, has pushed for concerts.
“There were no concerts at Camden Yards for 25 or 30 years, for whatever reason,” John Angelos said earlier this year. “Water over the dam.”
Billy Joel played the first-ever stand-alone concert at Camden Yards in 2019 and, at that time, the stadium authority board considered whether to share in the revenues. According to meeting minutes, the stadium authority opted out financially in 2019 “to encourage [the Orioles] to continue to bring non-baseball events,” especially since the club had never before held such a concert. But the stadium authority planned, at the time, to financially participate in future events that it believed would “produce a positive net revenue.”
However, ahead of last year’s Paul McCartney concert, the Orioles asked the stadium authority not to share in the profits and the authority acquiesced.
Frenz said it’s “reasonable to conclude” that the Springsteen show will turn a profit, but because the current lease is expiring and the new lease is unlikely to have the same revenue-sharing provision, the authority thought it best to allow the club to keep the revenues.
“We did say [in 2019], yeah, we would look at it in the future,” Frenz said Tuesday. “But I really think that given where we are in the life of the current lease, given that we’ve opted out of the previous two [concerts], I think for us to opt into this one may have been — it’s possible it would send the wrong message to the team.”
The Ravens previously had a similar agreement in their lease with the state. But their new one — signed this year — does not. That means that for next month’s Billy Joel and Stevie Nicks show at M&T Bank Stadium, the Ravens will receive the event’s revenue, while the stadium authority will receive only money from the amusement tax (8% of each ticket sold).
With Tuesday’s decision by the stadium authority board, a similar arrangement is in place for the Springsteen show. Frenz estimated the stadium authority would receive about $800,000 in amusement tax.
The Joel and McCartney concerts at Camden Yards saw crowds of roughly 40,000 each, but the stadium authority did not analyze how much revenue it could have made by opting into those events. The Orioles declined to answer how much money they made from each show.
Generally speaking, promoters and musical artists receive the bulk of revenue from a concert, with the host taking in a smaller portion. Marty Conway, former vice president of marketing with the Orioles and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, estimated that the net revenue for the ballclub for the concert would be in the “low seven figures.”
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That’s on par with an estimate from Frenz. Hedging that it was just a guess, Frenz told the board’s authority that, by participating in the event, the authority could have made roughly $800,000 (on top of the $800,000 from the amusement tax).
The authority has sought to increase the number of special events at the Camden Yards complex and it has reasoned that by opting out, they’re incentivizing the Orioles to host more concerts. If the stadium authority opted in, officials said, perhaps the Orioles would not host further events.
Frenz wrote in a 2022 letter to the authority board, obtained by The Sun in an open records request, that opting out of the McCartney show and “future concerts” would be the best way to “maximize the number of non-MLB and non-NFL events.”
“There are also benefits to the city and state from the economic activity generated from the concert and also the diversity of events at the complex because there are a lot of people who aren’t sports fans,” Frenz said Tuesday.
Asked if because the authority opted out, the Orioles might host two concerts next year, Frenz said: “Maybe. It depends on the concert schedule and the baseball schedule.”
This weekend will be a busy one for the Camden Yards complex. Before the Ravens’ season opener on Sunday at 1 p.m. against the Houston Texans, Springsteen will play at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, with Oriole Park gates opening at 5:30 p.m. Resale tickets are available on Ticketmaster starting at $113 (including fees).
Baltimore Sun reporters Jeff Barker and Sam Janesch contributed to this article.