With 13 days to spare before the current lease expired, the Orioles finally got the deal done for a new lease that will allow them to continue at Oriole Park at Camden Yards for years to come. On Monday morning, the board of the Maryland Stadium Authority approved last week’s tentative lease agreement, and in the afternoon, the state’s Board of Public Works put the final stamp on it.
Although a tentative agreement earlier in the month was scuttled within hours of its reported completion, there was not much suspense surrounding Monday’s vote. Objections raised about how the lease was tied to the potential development rights for a small amount of state-owned land adjacent to the stadium were resolved in the agreement that’s now final. No one had signaled any further opposition, and there was none.
Shortly after the lease signing was official, the Orioles sent out a release trumpeting the completion of the lease. John Angelos said, “I’m happy we can deliver on our promise to fans of keeping the Orioles here for 30 more years, marking the 100th season of the team in Baltimore.”
It’s a noteworthy statement in that, like many things that Angelos has publicly said over the course of this year, it does not seem to be the truth. According to the public summary of the Board of Public Works meeting agenda, one possible scenario that can play out is that the term of the lease is reduced to 15 years. Fifteen years starting next year only gets us to the end of 2038, substantially shy of a potential 100th anniversary celebration of this Orioles franchise.
The potential for the lease term to be reduced from 30 years to 15 years is tied up in whether or not there is approval for those development plans. The agreement that was finalized on Monday calls for the Orioles to have until December 31, 2027 “to negotiate and finalize a form of ground lease and master development plan” that would then have to win approval from the Maryland General Assembly’s Legislative Policy Committee as well as the Board of Public Works.
If that approval does not happen, the team has the option to reduce the lease to 15 years. Were it not for the manner in which Angelos has conducted himself in a variety of interview and press conference settings through 2023, it would barely even be worth focusing on this option. Angelos’s own public statements, such as his platitude-heavy but substance-light New York Times interview in which he suggested the idea of an elementary school in the Warehouse, certainly point to this development rights stuff being of paramount importance for him personally.
The Baltimore Banner reported that the land involved for potential redevelopment “is believed to include the B&O Warehouse, the vacant Camden Station Building, and an adjacent parking area between the Warehouse and train tracks.” I struggle to see any kind of development worth all of the fuss it has gotten taking root in that area, but maybe my imagination for real estate just isn’t big enough.
On a more positive note, it’s also possible for the lease to end up lasting for as many as 50 years. Under the base terms of the lease, the team can exercise up to four five-year extensions of this lease. That would be a lot less stressful than everything that has happened through the course of this year.