In big-league first, Orioles, stadium authority form merchandising team

March 11, 1992|By Mark Hyman | Mark Hyman,Staff Writer

The Orioles and the Maryland Stadium Authority, partners in planning the new Oriole Park at Camden Yards, may be teaming up again -- in the collectibles business.

Stadium authority members are expected to approve today an agreement that would transfer trademark rights for the new ballpark to Major League Baseball Properties, the licensing arm of Major League Baseball.

Oriole Park at Camden Yards would not be the first ballpark packaged and sold by Major League Baseball Properties. The company controls the trademarks of about a half-dozen other major-league ballparks, including some that no longer exist.

But the proposed Baltimore deal is different in at least one way. The stadium authority would share in revenue from the sale of memorabilia featuring the name or likeness of Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Landlords of other ballparks licensed by Major League Baseball Properties do not.

"To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time a ballclub and a stadium authority have captured an understanding" about splitting novelty money, said Rick White, president of Major League Baseball Properties.

White said some landlords conceivably could argue that they are owed a percentage of royalties generated by their ballparks -- and collected by Major League Baseball Properties. So far none has, he said.

"Technically speaking, the city of New York could claim rights to Yankee Stadium since they own it. They haven't," he said.

Neither the stadium authority nor the Orioles figures to get rich from the proposed agreement, which would obligate manufacturers to pay a 12 percent royalty on all ballpark memorabilia they sell.

The stadium authority would get 5.75 percent, which goes directly to its coffers. The Orioles' share is 6.25 percent, but that would be reduced by an administrative fee to Major League Baseball Properties and then divided equally among major-league teams.

On annual retail sales of $1 million, a figure that will be difficult to reach after the initial surge of excitement in the new ballpark, White said, the stadium authority might collect $30,000. The Orioles' cut would be about $1,000.

Any agreement to turn over trademarks pertaining to the new ballpark would have to be approved by the Orioles and the stadium authority. The team claims a right to "Oriole Park," and the state has asserted a trademark for "Camden Yards." The stadium authority has had a trademark on the likeness of the building during construction but will lose that when the ballpark opens.

Stadium authority chairman Herbert J. Belgrad said the deal with Major League Baseball Properties ensures that the state gets its share and that both the first and last names of the ballpark will appear on memorabilia.

"We couldn't use the Oriole emblem or Oriole designation. They couldn't use Camden Yards," Belgrad said. "Either we had to work out an agreement between us or waive our rights."

Orioles president Larry Lucchino said, "The name is Oriole Park at Camden Yards, so that is what we will be licensing."

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