Sale holds no bearing on park lease THE SALE OF THE ORIOLES

August 03, 1993|By Mark Hyman | Mark Hyman,Staff Writer

The latest change in Orioles ownership should have no effect on the team's commitment to play at Oriole Park at Camden Yards deep into the next century, Maryland Stadium Authority chairman Herbert J. Belgrad said.

The 30-year ballpark lease agreement binds the new Orioles owners just as it has present owner Eli S. Jacobs and as it did Mr. Jacobs' predecessor, the late Washington lawyer Edward Bennett Williams, Mr. Belgrad said.

"The lease was drawn with care. We feel it has all safeguards necessary to protect our interest over a 30-year period with a current or successor owner," Mr. Belgrad said.

The lease already has survived one ownership change. In May 1988, when the team was owned by Mr. Williams, stadium authority and Orioles officials signed a memorandum of agreement, the legally binding document that triggered construction of the new park.

Mr. Williams died three months later. His heirs then sold the team to a group led by Mr. Jacobs, who inherited lease terms negotiated by Mr. Williams. Last September, after working sporadically for four years, the two sides completed a final lease. It included some altered terms, including extending the length of the deal from 15 to 30 years.

The best protection against a possible departure of the team is the success of the ballpark itself. In its inaugural year, Oriole Park proved to be a smash hit, drawing a team attendance record of 3.56 million fans and raking in increased revenues for the team from the sales of everything from tickets to tacos.

But the lease provides additional safeguards, including a "no relocation" clause that prohibits the team from playing any regular-season or postseason games during the term of the agreement anyplace but at Oriole Park.

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