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Baltimore Orioles

Orioles say sharing concert profits with state is a disincentive to hosting acts like Paul McCartney, Billy Joel

If Camden Yards is to host more concerts like the upcoming Paul McCartney show or the Billy Joel performance from 2019, the Orioles do not want to share the profits with the state.

The Orioles’ lease with the Maryland Stadium Authority, which owns Oriole Park at Camden Yards, gives the MSA the option to participate (or not) financially in non-baseball special events at the venue. If the authority opts in to an event, it receives 45% of the revenue while the Orioles receive 55%.

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However, for the June 12 show featuring music legend McCartney, the Orioles asked the MSA to opt out. The authority’s board of directors unanimously agreed to do so during a meeting Tuesday.

“The Orioles have told us that our participation in these will be and is a significant disincentive for them to bring further events to the stadium,” MSA Executive Director Michael Frenz said during the meeting. “We obviously have a desire to maximize these events, so in this case, we have elected to acquiesce to what they have told us and opt out from this financial participation in the Paul McCartney concert.”

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So, the Orioles will receive all revenue from the event. But they also accept all the risk. Should the concert lose money due to inclement weather or any other reason, the stadium authority would not suffer a loss, but the Orioles would.

“Hopefully June 12 turns out to be a beautiful night, but it could rain, things happen,” MSA Chairman Thomas Kelso said, “and so there are risks when you have these concerts and under this scenario, we have zero risk.”

There is a 10% amusement tax on tickets to the event, from which 20% goes to the city and 80% goes to the stadium authority.

“It’s a great thing. We take no risk and we make 8% of the total amount of tickets sold,” Kelso said of the amusement tax.

He estimated tax revenue for the MSA to be $700,000 or $800,000.

“If they don’t do events, we don’t get anything,” he said. “We get 8% of zero.”

Leonard Attman, a member of the stadium authority board, asked what the potential loss in revenue would be for opting out. Frenz replied that was not known. Minerva Riddick, another board member, asked if the decision to opt out was a “permanent no.” Kelso didn’t answer directly, but said the MSA should be amenable to opting out in the future because it still will yield 8% of the amusement tax, which they wouldn’t receive if the Orioles weren’t hosting concerts at all.

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For all of its 30 years, Oriole Park has been very much a baseball-specific venue. The park’s first major concert was Billy Joel in 2019, which drew a sold-out crowd of about 40,000.

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“The Orioles never did anything other than play baseball and have the pope,” said Kelso, referencing a visit and mass by Pope John Paul II in 1995.

Like the McCartney concert, the MSA also opted out of revenue sharing from the Billy Joel show three years ago, a concession the authority made to encourage the team to continue to bring in more non-baseball events.

When the Orioles were asked if, in the future, they would ask the state to opt out of financial participation in concerts, the team did not answer directly. In a statement to the Baltimore Sun, the Orioles organization said it was investing resources in making Camden Yards “one of the premier, year-round entertainment destinations for world-renowned artists and tourists alike.”

“After experiencing incredible success with the sold-out Billy Joel concert in 2019, we intend to build upon that achievement by hosting one of the greatest musicians of all-time in Sir Paul McCartney, a major step in bringing more concerts, festivals, and entertainment events to Charm City,” the statement continued. “We look forward to continuing our collaborative efforts with the city, the state, and our many community partners to drive another 75 million people to Downtown Baltimore and ultimately extend upon the club’s more than 10 billion dollar impact for the State of Maryland.”

In its 2019 financial and annual review, the stadium authority wrote that it was pleased with the Billy Joel concert and “looks forward to future bookings at the beloved ballpark.”

McCartney will play Camden Yards on Sunday, June 12, beginning at 8 p.m. as part of the “Got Back” tour. It’s his first show in Baltimore since the Beatles played in the city in 1964.


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