Orioles' lease adds billboards, divides security fees, multiplies image protection

September 03, 1992|By Mark Hyman | Mark Hyman,Staff Writer

The Orioles and the Maryland Stadium Authority unveiled their Camden Yards stadium lease yesterday, a 158-page document of mostly technical, occasionally obscure language.

The agreement, officially approved by the state yesterday, details much more than the Orioles' commitment to play in the new stadium for 30 years and the parties' decision to opt for a simplified rent formula, its major terms.

The agreement also bans the sale of state lottery tickets at the ballpark, maps out new locations where the Orioles can post billboards and contains a lengthy section in which the parties agree to preserve the ballpark's old-fashioned image.

Ask the top negotiators for the stadium authority and the Orioles why it took four years -- the time between signing a memorandum of agreement in May 1988 and a final lease -- to complete the deal and they quickly point to these items and countless others in the lease.

"When you have a chance to review a 150-plus-page document, you see there are a lot of details -- operational, maintenance, insurance. They have no impact on the fans, but they're meaningful to landlord and tenant," said authority chairman Herbert J. Belgrad.

Orioles president Larry Lucchino said the parties hadn't been able to focus on the talks until the ballpark was open for business.

"We spent most of our time and effort in designing and constructing this ballpark," Lucchino said. "When that was done, we turned back to the business of completing the lease."

The lease includes a number of terms that subtly could affect what fans see, feel and eat at the ballpark well into the 21st century. The list includes:

* New advertising: Fans who park in the stadium lots may notice changes next season as they walk to the ballpark. The agreement permits the Orioles to erect eight billboards that will be hang from concrete piers that support Martin Luther King Boulevard. The added space is expected to generate roughly $60,000 per year in advertising revenue, which will be shared by the Orioles and the state.

* New food stands: Under the new agreement, the Orioles can extend areas for vendors to serve ballpark food. ARA Leisure Services, the ballpark's caterer, will be permitted to operate carts during games throughout the Eutaw Street corridor, including the pedestrian spine leading to parking lots.

* Ballpark security: The Orioles and stadium authority have agreed to share the cost of hiring Baltimore police to patrol the ballpark during games and to decide jointly how many officers to hire. Under the old terms, the stadium authority had picked up the full bill for security, which had been roughly $6,500 per game.

* Ballpark appearance: The new agreement establishes a "Ballpark Preservation Zone" to protect "the sophisticated aesthetic standard of the ballpark's design and its traditional, old-fashioned character." Its boundaries: Camden Street to the north, Russell Street to the west, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to the south and the sidewalk adjacent to the warehouse on the east side.

The lease "gives the Orioles enhanced rights to tell us they don't like things we are doing that would affect the aesthetics of the stadium," said the stadium authority's lawyer, Alison Asti.

Under the memorandum of agreement, for example, the Orioles only could have objected to an office building sprouting up in the shadow of the ballpark if the construction interfered with baseball activities.

"Now, they can tell us it's ugly," Asti said.

The Orioles and the stadium authority were not alone in approving the lease. Before going before the state Board of Public Works, where it was approved yesterday, the agreement also was reviewed by baseball commissioner Fay Vincent.

Vincent and American League president Bobby Brown approved the lease after clarifying three points. The baseball officials asked for changes in the rent the stadium authority will receive for next year's All-Star Game at Camden Yards. (The stadium authority mostly will be reimbursed for expenses.)

Vincent and Brown also insisted that gambling of any sort be banned at the ballpark, even including the sale of the instant lottery tickets that have helped finance the $106.5 million stadium. They also asked the stadium authority to agree to "scheduling parity" should Baltimore acquire an NFL team.

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