Facing a fast-approaching deadline and mounting public pressure to secure the Orioles’ long-term commitment to Baltimore, three officials in Gov. Wes Moore’s administration said Tuesday that they remain confident of reaching a lease deal to keep the team in the city “for decades to come,” but would not disclose any details about the status of the negotiations.
The officials, who are close to the negotiations but insisted they not be named because the discussions are ongoing, said the Democratic governor’s priorities are: getting a sound return on investment for the significant taxpayer dollars that are set aside to improve Oriole Park at Camden Yards, recruiting investors to develop the area around the stadium, and keeping the Orioles in the city for the long run.
In the first extended comments from either party, the Moore officials also described a “shared vision” with the Orioles to develop the area around the stadium as a “live-work-play” destination.
They declined, however, to reveal specifics about the talks and pushed back against questions about any “hang-ups” that could prevent what they described as a “particularly complex” deal from being finished. They wouldn’t identify, for instance, a general list of the current topics of discussion or say how often the parties are meeting.
David Turner, a senior adviser and communications director for Moore, said in a statement that the governor is committed to a deal “that keeps the Orioles in Baltimore and is good for the taxpayers of Maryland.”
”This approach will attract private investment to Baltimore for the benefit of the broader Baltimore community and Marylanders all across the state,” Turner said. “The Moore-Miller Administration remains focused on getting this deal done. The Orioles have been reliable, community-minded partners and we are working together to secure the team’s future at Camden Yards for decades to come.”
While speaking with reporters during a visit to Ravens’ training camp earlier this month, Moore said: “There will be baseball in Baltimore for generations to come.”
Kate Bennett, a spokesperson for Orioles Chairman and CEO John Angelos, did not reply Tuesday to a request for comment.
The Orioles initially signed a 30-year lease to play at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the state-funded and state-owned venue, when it opened in 1992. In the final year of the agreement, 2021, the two sides agreed to a two-year extension.
It will expire Dec. 31. The administration officials would not estimate Tuesday when before then a deal might be reached, but said they did not expect another brief extension.
Both Moore and Angelos, in past joint statements, have repeatedly committed to signing a lease and keeping the Orioles in Baltimore, attempting to assuage a fan base still haunted by the abrupt loss of the NFL’s Colts to Indianapolis in 1984 and fearful of the departure of another storied franchise.
Without any specific updates and the Orioles’ league-leading season drawing interest in the team’s future, public pressure has started to mount — and, in the process, created one of the most significant and high-profile challenges for a first-year governor who may have national ambitions.
In July, Treasurer Dereck Davis, who would be one of three state officials involved in the final approval of a lease, expressed concern about the lack of an agreement. He said the Orioles and the Maryland Stadium Authority owed it to taxpayers to get a deal done. After subsequently meeting with Moore and Angelos, Davis said he was “cautiously optimistic that we’re not too far from, hopefully, announcing a deal.”
In recent weeks, state Senate President Bill Ferguson, whose district is home to the stadiums, also expressed impatience, saying a deal should have been finished “yesterday.” Ferguson also emphasized that the stadium lease should be signed before deals are made about improvements beyond the ballpark itself.
The General Assembly last year overwhelmingly passed a bill, with support from the Ravens and Orioles, to allow the stadium authority to borrow up to $1.2 billion at any one time to improve the two pro sports venues — $600 million for each. Those bonds will be repaid by up to $90 million a year in lottery funds. Once some are paid off, more can be borrowed, meaning the venues could be eligible to receive more than $1.2 billion in state money in the coming years.
Many economists, who generally argue stadium subsidies are a bad investment of taxpayer money, have said the $1.2 billion deal is an especially beneficial one for the Baltimore pro teams.
However, accessing that money is contingent on a long-term lease. The Ravens signed a 10-year extension earlier this year, under the administration of former Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. That stretched the team’s commitment in Baltimore from 2027 to 2037 (and up to 2047, if the team exercises two five-year options).
With $450 million in bonds, the stadium authority will begin next year to improve the Ravens’ M&T Bank Stadium. But there are no concrete plans to renovate Oriole Park at Camden Yards as the baseball team remains without a long-term lease.
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Adding to the already lengthy process, Angelos refused to negotiate with the Hogan administration during its last 10 weeks before Moore took office in January, according to a letter he sent the new governor that The Baltimore Sun obtained. Moore replaced Hogan’s stadium authority chair, Tom Kelso, with Craig Thompson.
Angelos said earlier this year he hoped a new lease would be in place by July, but no deal has been made. The negotiations have included significant asks from Angelos: Sources told The Sun he sought the development rights to three state-owned parking lots, as well as $300 million more in public investment.
The requests were part of Angelos’ goal, one that the administration officials said they share, to develop a “live-work-play” area around the stadium, similar to The Battery entertainment district developed around the Atlanta Braves’ Truist Park. Angelos and Moore toured that stadium and district together earlier this year.
As they described the “shared vision” of the state and the Orioles, two of the officials who discussed the negotiations Tuesday used the same “live-work-play” phrase Angelos has employed in pitching his idea to redevelop the Camden Yards area. In recent years, it’s become more common for MLB teams to add entertainment districts around their venues.
“It’s a major opportunity to leverage what is just an absolutely awesome asset that we have as a state, and to make sure that we’re able to have it stretch, and its effects reach every corner of the state,” one of those officials said.
The official specifically noted San Diego, home of the Padres’ Petco Park, as a reference, where the source said there was a “diversified array of activities and amenities to create economic activity.”
Baltimore Sun reporter Jeff Barker contributed to this article.