Back in spring training, John Angelos, owner of the Baltimore Orioles, established an aspirational deadline for a new stadium deal: “I’d love to have that [lease] as an All-Star break gift for everybody, really, in the community.” Around that time, he declined a 5-year option to extend the team’s tenancy at Camden Yards. With MLB’s All-Star Game upon us and no deal in sight, what’s going on?
The simple answer is that stadium deals aren’t simple. A new governor took office earlier this year, which means that the Maryland Stadium Authority, which oversees Camden, has a number of new members. The existing lease is 30 years old, meaning many of the terms no longer reflect market conditions or best practices. For example, it’s unlikely anyone was concerned about facial recognition data when Cal Ripken helped open the stadium in 1992. Additionally, the parties probably want a term that is longer than 5 years. The current lease expires on December 31, 2023, so the team and Authority have time to reach an agreement, but as with Angelos’ aspirational deadline from February, a few months can go by fast.
Baltimore’s situation is not unusual, as cities and teams around the country negotiate stadium deals. The Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans are getting new stadiums in the NFL after some haggling. The Oakland A’s will soon be the Las Vegas A’s due in part to stadium politics. The Brewers stadium plans are on hold while government officials debate public funding. This is in addition to numerous other professional and college stadiums and arenas that are under scrutiny for expansion or renewal deals.
The real estate teams play on is always valuable, and the leases they sign are the documents governing how they extract that value. There’s a reason why they aren’t simple.