The announcement that classic rocker Billy Joel will play at Oriole Park in late July breaks with a long-standing organizational reluctance to host major concerts, but it’s the right thing to do on a number of levels.
The Orioles will be in the middle of the first full year of what could be a painful rebuilding period, so anything that packs the ballpark for an entertaining evening generates revenue and is great for business in the surrounding Inner Harbor area.
It’s also another sign that the Orioles have entered a new era of proactive ownership. John and Louis Angelos have assumed control of the franchise and clearly want to project a more vibrant image for the organization.
Joel isn’t exactly a spring chicken, but big-time concerts draw fans from a wide age range and the estimated crowd of 37,000 figures to include a lot of first-time visitors to Camden Yards who just might fall in love with the ballpark and come back for some baseball.
During Thursday’s media presentation at the B&O Warehouse to announce the concert, John Angelos repeatedly stressed two major reasons for expanding the use of Oriole Park to eventually include a variety of nonbaseball events.
The first is simply to rebrand the Orioles as an entertainment company, which is why the team has added a new “Orioles Entertainment” logo to its letterhead. The second is to bring more people into Baltimore to spend money and patronize local businesses at a time when Orioles attendance has been hit by a perfect storm of competitive decline and civic dysfunction.
The team has experimented with music events at the Orioles’ spring training facility in Sarasota, Fla., and also has staged a series of smaller concerts featuring “emerging” musicians in conjunction with the Friday night fireworks promotions at Camden Yards.
“This is obviously a spectacular event,’’ Angelos said. “But from small to spectacular, you want to try to touch people in different ways to give people additional reasons to come to the ballpark.”
While Angelos acknowledged that the Orioles want to do anything they can to increase attendance after a 2018 season in which it declined to a level not seen since Joel was a hot young act, he said that would be the right thing to do regardless of how many fans showed up last year.
“I think you do that in a down year, a middle year or an up year on the field,’’ he said. “I just think it’s something we do because we’re an entertainment business. I think we owe it to the city and the state to work it for all we can and get people down here.”
No argument there.
Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.
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