With already funded plans to upgrade their home and an eye toward how their neighborhood has improved over the years, the Ravens want to extend their lease on M&T Bank Stadium for at least 15 years and as long as 25 years.
“We felt it was important to show a commitment to the community, to the city, to the state, to our fans,” said Chad Steele, the team’s senior vice president for communications.
The state’s Board of Public Works will consider a new lease between the Ravens and the Maryland Stadium Authority at its meeting Wednesday, with the team expected to take advantage of state funding approved last year for improvements to the facility.
According to the authority, “general business terms of an agreement as related to stadium renovations were presented and approved by the National Football League” on Dec. 14. Then, on Dec. 27, the authority’s board of directors met to consider a new lease agreement with the Ravens.
“MSA is extremely pleased with the proposed new stadium lease agreement with Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium that continues our strong partnership with the team through the end of the 2037 NFL season with two 5 year options to extend,” the authority said in a statement Monday night.
The team’s current lease doesn’t expire until the end of 2027, but the team appears eager to begin upgrading its home of 24 years. The Board of Public Works agenda item noted that the new agreement was negotiated “in anticipation” of a request that the board issue bonds “for improvements and renovations to the football stadium in the near future.”
The Maryland General Assembly at its last session authorized the stadium authority to borrow up to $1.2 billion — split evenly between M&T and the Orioles’ Camden Yards — for improvements to its two pro sports facilities. Gov. Larry Hogan signed the measure into law in April.
According to the stadium authority, while the new lease is “fundamentally the same as the agreement presently in place, it offers greater protections to the MSA, additional revenue opportunities to the team that are in line with current stadium trends and opportunities to collaborate on improvements that will enhance the fan experience.”
In the summer of 2021, the Ravens had begun preliminary talks with the stadium authority on “an extended lease,” Dick Cass, then the Ravens’ president, told The Baltimore Sun in January the following year. He said the team did not want to delay plans to upgrade the stadium with such amenities as additional lower-bowl premium seating and better access to new developments on the Warner Street corridor.
Both Steele and the stadium authority declined to specify what improvements the Ravens have planned. Steele noted the new developments on the corridor, which include a Top Golf facility that recently opened and a planned concert venue.
“I went down there when Marshal Yanda was here. He had an event at Top Golf,” Steele said of the former Ravens guard who was inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor in December. “I’d been at Top Golfs in other places. They did a great job with it — it’s beautiful. Exciting things are happening down there.”
Last year, the Ravens hired Populous, a Kansas City architectural firm to recommend upgrades to M&T. It’s the same firm that designed a $120 million renovation project that was completed in 2019 and added new, high-definition videoboards and suites in the stadium’s four corners.
The lease forbids the Ravens from relocating, and requires that the team play all its home games at M&T with “limited” exceptions. The team will pay no rent but will continue to pay operations and maintenance costs, either directly or reimbursed by the authority. With limited exceptions, the Ravens will keep the revenue from the stadium.
As the Ravens seek to lock down their residency, the Orioles are approaching the end of their current lease: The team’s lease, originally set to expire at the end of 2021, was extended through Dec. 31, 2023. It has until Feb. 1 to exercise a one-time, five-year extension.
The family of O’s owner Peter Angelos, who has been incapacitated by illness, have been waging a bitter legal fight over control of the team and his other assets. But his older son, John Angelos, the Orioles chairman and CEO, has told staff he intends to sign a new lease with the stadium authority keeping the team in Baltimore.
Their neighboring Ravens would certainly welcome that.
“We’ve long felt Camden Yards has been an anchor for Baltimore and downtown, along with the stadium, along with what’s going on downtown,” Steele said. “It’s a huge benefit to the city and state, bringing in a ton of revenue. We wanted to make sure we’re a part of that positive economic impact.”