A Senate committee on Friday approved legislation that would allow the Maryland Stadium Authority to borrow up to $1.2 billion to pay for stadium improvements designed to keep Orioles and Ravens in their existing Baltimore homes for the long-term.
The Tax and Budget Committee approved the measure for the voice vote, along with an accompanying bill to create a $200 million fund to improve the state’s high school ballparks. Stadiums in Aberdeen, Bowie, Frederick, Hagerstown, Salisbury and Waldorf will be eligible to apply to the Stadium Authority for capital improvement fund. Other sports facilities, such as equestrian centers, will also be eligible.
And both measures — which had previously been approved by the House of Representatives by overwhelming margins — now move to the Senate floor, where approval was expected before the General Assembly ended its session on Monday.
An accompanying bill would also create a $10 million fund to help the state attract or retain large-scale sporting or recreational events such as the All-Star Game of Major League Baseball or the 2026 Soccer World Cup.
It will also fund two studies on progress in redevelopment efforts at Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park, and a third study on potential tax issues arising from rebuilding Laurel. The redevelopment is designed to preserve Preakness Stakes at Pimlico in northwest Baltimore and to enhance Laurel’s year-round racing and stables of nearly 1,600 horses.
The $1.2 billion request from the bond authority is designed to demonstrate the state’s commitment to maintaining the Ravens’ NFL and Major League Baseball in Baltimore, and to help clubs attract fans to games and other events such as concerts.
“We rent stadiums to teams on a 365-day-a-year basis, and so they are responsible for programming and maximizing the use of those stadiums throughout the year,” Tom Kelso, the authority’s chair, told the committee. “So the idea of concerts and other events that could take place in stadiums really requires different amenities in those stadiums in order to make that happen.”
The legislation will increase the bond debt allowed for stadium projects from $235 million to $1.2 billion. Up to $600 million in project debt will be allowed into each club’s court at any time.
The legislation provides a flexible flow of funding but does not specify the types of modernization projects Orioles and Ravens may pursue.
At Camden Yards, changes could include more social spaces, fewer seating and a sports betting area. Ravens officials have expressed interest in additional low-bowl seating.
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Both clubs said it would be premature to discuss specific projects.
“There is not a single $600 million investment,” Kelso testified. “But over a 5 or 10 year period of time, it doesn’t make sense that both teams could reach that level of spending.”
The bill would also gradually increase the amount of government lottery proceeds that can be used to pay debt service on the bonds — from $20 million to $90 million a year. The legislation would require teams to sign a lease for a period long enough to repay the bonds.
The bill does not address FedEx Field, the Washington leaders’ stadium in Prince George’s County. But it does allow $400 million in bonds for major development projects to bolster the area around the stadium known as the “Blue Line Corridor”.
Oriol Park is 30 years old and M&T Bank Stadium is 24 years old. Some stadiums, such as Turner Field in Atlanta and formerly Globe Life Park in Texas, were abandoned by their baseball teams before turning 30.
The Orioles’ original lease contract with the state began on April 1, 1992, and was due to expire at the end of 2021. The parties agreed in February 2021 to extend the agreement for two years until December 31, 2023, with the club retaining the right. To exercise a one-time five-year extension by February 1, 2023.
The Ravens’ lease will not expire until after the 2027 season, but the team and authority say they have begun preliminary talks about an extension.