USA News

John Angelos sought development rights to state-owned parking lots as Orioles negotiate new Camden Yards lease – The Denver Post


As part of seeking an agreement on a new lease that will bind the Orioles to Baltimore, club chairman and CEO John Angelos sought commercial development rights to three state-owned parking lots that sit on valuable land between Oriole Park at Camden Yards and the Ravens’ M&T Bank Stadium.

Angelos has long said publicly that signing a new agreement with the Maryland Stadium Authority for the state-owned ballpark would be about more than the MLB team’s home field. As part of his idea to create a surrounding “live-work-play” area, four people with knowledge of his request told The Baltimore Sun that Angelos proposed getting the rights to lots A, B and C.

One of sources familiar with the negotiations said Angelos’ idea for the parking lots came up earlier in the talks with the administration of Gov. Wes Moore, but is no longer on the table. That is not the direction a final deal is headed, the source said. Another source emphasized that in any negotiation, the situation is fluid and could not say for certain whether the idea was still under consideration.

A third source said Angelos also suggested the Orioles not pay rent on the ballpark under a new lease, and that he sought an additional $300 million from the state for stadium improvements. The first source said those ideas came up as part of the discussions of a larger, complex deal, but that negotiations have since moved in a different direction.

In 2022, the General Assembly passed a law permitting the stadium authority to borrow up to $1.2 billion to improve the two stadiums ($600 million each), provided the teams signed long-term leases. The bonds will be paid back later with lottery funds. State Senate President Bill Ferguson told The Sun this week: “It’s very difficult to see additional state dollars available.”

The four people declined to be named because discussions by the parties are ongoing.

The ideas provide insight into complicated issues facing the team and the stadium authority, its landlord, amid concerns by fans and some state officials over the unresolved situation. The original lease, which has previously been extended, expires Dec. 31. It has a clause that bars the team from moving.

Angelos and Moore, the Democratic governor, have expressed confidence that a deal will get done. Angelos did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for Moore responded to a request, but was not immediately able to provide comment.

The parking lots are part of roughly 85 acres that comprise the Camden Yards complex. They are valuable because of their proximity to the stadiums, the Inner Harbor and a growing entertainment district that includes Horseshoe Casino and Topgolf, as well as their proximity to Washington, D.C. However, the area is hemmed in by the stadiums, and a portion of the property is of shallow depth because of an underground rail tunnel.

Stadium Authority Chairman Craig Thompson did not respond to a text seeking comment.

Angelos, the city and state have all expressed interest in redeveloping the stadium area.

“We want to work with your administration on ‘Camden Yards 2.0′ with a live, work, play theme that will bring residents, businesses and tourists to downtown Baltimore year-round,” Angelos wrote in a Jan. 31 letter to Moore obtained by The Sun.

A state move to relinquish the development rights could be problematic, however, because state officials would need to ensure Maryland received ample return for its property.

Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat, said the Orioles and the authority should wrap up lease talks before considering development options. “It’s important that they remain separate conversations,” he said.

Ferguson said he could neither confirm nor deny details of the negotiations. But he said questions about attracting long-term investment around the stadiums and Inner Harbor “are easier conversations once a long-term deal is in place. We can deal with the other stuff around the stadium in the context of the broader revitalization of downtown.”

Developing the area between the stadiums would also present concerns because lots B and C are prime parking for Ravens’ fans. The NFL team, in fact, is guaranteed parking spaces in its lease.

Requests to the Ravens for comment were not returned.

The Ravens’ lease extension, signed in January, requires the stadium authority to provide approximately 4,000 surface parking spaces for games and other events at M&T. The authority cannot reduce the number of spaces in so-called key parking lots — lettered A through H — without the Ravens’ approval.

In the case of Lot A, the stadium authority can’t reduce the number of spaces unless it provides an equal number of replacement spaces acceptable to the Ravens, the lease stipulates. The stadium authority can construct something “over, on, or under” Lot A, as long as any spaces lost to something like a structure’s support columns are relocated and the spaces eliminated are kept to a minimum.

Lot A is directly south of the baseball park and B and C are south of it, between Lee and Russell streets.

Whoever ultimately has the development rights, the concept “makes a lot of sense,” said Baltimore-based economist Anirban Basu.

“There’s a higher and better use for that than as surface parking,” said Basu, chairman and CEO of Sage Policy Group. “With remote work here to stay, we have to find a way to get people back downtown.”

While the question of how to develop the stadium area may make the lease negotiations more complicated, it shouldn’t be impossible, he said.

“We have the Maryland Stadium Authority, that’s what they do,” he said. “They’re very good developers.”

The Atlanta Braves developed an entertainment district, The Battery, adjacent to its Truist Park. Angelos and Moore visited it earlier this year and Angelos touts it as a model for what Baltimore’s stadium complex could become.

“If the Angelos family decides they want to be developers, they can raise capital, and put that capital at risk,” Basu said. Or, he noted, they could partner with a developer. In his letter to Moore, Angelos disclosed the club had “recently” engaged JLL, the master developer adviser to the Braves on The Battery, “to assist in maximizing our creative vision for Oriole Park.”

Basu said that without doing an economic analysis, it’s hard to assess the value of development rights for the lots, but it would surely be in the hundreds of millions because of its location and accessibility to both the Baltimore and Washington markets.

“It would be valuable because it’s between two stadiums,” Basu said. “And it’s effectively part of the Washington metro area because it’s so accessible.”

Basu said the ever-looming threat of Baltimore losing a team as it did its beloved Colts to Indianapolis should serve as motivation to close a deal on the lease.

“The great nightmare,” Basu said, “would be seeing the Indianapolis Orioles taking the field.”

Ironically, the idea of developing the area between Camden Yards and the Ravens stadium came up in 1997, but was “bitterly” opposed by the Orioles, as The Sun reported at the time. The stadium authority wanted to develop the area as an “urban entertainment complex” of shops, restaurants and other attractions. But the Orioles said that would compete with and diminish Camden Yards.

Then-Gov. Parris Glendening urged the stadium authority and the Orioles to work together. Team owner Peter Angelos, John Angelos’ father, responded with a four-page letter, saying that was a “grossly inappropriate” comment and reiterating, “We will not support dropping a shopping center between the two stadiums.”

The area between the two stadiums remains, then as now, surface parking.

()

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button