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State funding approved for Oriole Park renovations, MiLB ballpark upgrades

Oriole Park at Camden Yards

A bill signed by Gov. Larry Hogan authorizes the Maryland Stadium Authority to borrow up to $1.2 billion to fund Oriole Park renovations, with a separate $200 million devoted to other sporting venues, including MiLB ballparks.

The $1.2-billion bonding measure also includes money for upgrades to M&T Bank Stadium, home of the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens.

The Orioles and the Maryland Stadium Authority have been discussing Oriole Park renovations for several years now, and the two sides share a vision of a renovation Oriole Park featuring new social spaces, new smaller group seating areas and a sportsbook. And the two sides have had plenty of time to talk about the upgrades: the original Oriole Park lease was extended from 2021 to Dec. 31, 2023, and potentially long with the Orioles holding a potential five-year extension pushing the end date to February 1, 2028. Any new lease and renovation plan will lend some clarity to the future of the Orioles: Peter Angelos is now 92 and still leads the limited partnership controlling the team, with son John Angelos the MLB control person. The fear is that if the team is sold without a new lease worked out, a new owner could buy the team and move it to a new market. From the Baltimore Sun:

“The money is most critical from a standpoint of being able to extend the useful lives of these stadiums,” said Thomas Kelso, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority. “The way this bill was designed and this funding was designed is really to foster this idea of a partnership with both teams.”

The legislation increases the allowable bond debt for stadium projects from $235 million to $1.2 billion, and would require the teams to sign leases at least as long as it takes to pay off the bonds, which is done with state lottery proceeds. Up to $600 million in outstanding debt would be allowed for projects at each club’s stadium at any given time.

Funding for a new Hagerstown multiuse facility planned as home to an MLB Partner League Atlantic League is part of the $1.2 billion bill.

The MiLB ballparks are Perdue Stadium, home of the Delmarva Shorebirds (Single-A; Carolina League); Ripken Stadium, home of the Aberdeen IronBirds (High-A; Sally League); Prince George’s Stadium, home of the Bowie Baysox (Double-A; Eastern League); and Harbor Park, home of the Norfolk Tides (Triple-A; International League. Regency Furniture Stadium is home to the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs of the MLB Partner League Atlantic League. At least in one case–Prince George’s Stadium–the state funding will be used to fund MLB-mandated upgrades to meet new MiLB facility guidelines.

Speaking of Hagerstown: Municipal Stadium, home to Minor League Baseball for decades before MLB contraction led to the shutdown of the Hagerstown Sun (Low-A; Sally League), is no more, as the demolition of the facility began earlier this month. With plans for a new ballpark already in place and the city wanting to move ahead with new construction at the site, its demise was a foregone conclusion.

RELATED STORIES: Orioles, Maryland Stadium Authority still discussing Oriole Park renovations; Orioles, MSA extend Oriole Park lease through 2023Future of Orioles ownership in transitional timeOrioles, stadium authority negotiating new Oriole Park leaseBaltimore Orioles Planning Oriole Park Future; Hagerstown formally approved for 2023 Atlantic League debut; Maryland Assembly approves new Hagerstown ballpark for Atlantic League team; New Hagerstown ballpark yet again on tap;

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