The Ravens begin stadium leasing discussions with the state of Maryland, eyeing future upgrades – The Mercury News

According to the team, the Ravens have begun discussions with the state on leasing a new stadium, with an eye on possible upgrades including additional lower-bowl premium seating and easier access to the developing Warner Street Corridor.

The NFL club lease, which was signed in 1997, is not due until after the 2027 season, but the team and the Maryland Stadium Authority began preliminary talks on “an extended lease” last summer, team president Dick Cass said in an interview. said in.

“The Ravens are very focused on the GameDay fan experience and don’t want to wait five years to plan for more stadium upgrades,” said authority president Thomas Kelso.

Several months ago, the team retained Populous, the same architectural firm that completed a $120 million M&T Bank stadium renovation project in 2019, which included new, high-definition video boards and new suites at Four Corners.

This time, the Kansas City-based firm has been asked to “help us determine whether to keep M&T Bank Stadium a first-class NFL stadium for 10 to 15 years following the expiration of our current lease.” What changes do we need to make?” Cass said.

Among other upgrades, the firm will explore ideas for adding new premium seating.

“In some stadiums you see the box down on the field. We did a little bit in the last renovation and we need to find more opportunities for that,” Cass said.

A few years ago, the club, in partnership with Bud Light, opened a small, field-level box, near an end zone. Other venues such as MetLife Stadium, home of the New York Giants and New York Jets, offer more low-level suites that are among the stadium’s most valuable seats.

Although sometimes overshadowed by its neighbor – popular Oriole Park at Camden Yards – The M&T Bank Stadium, which opened in 1998, is generally well regarded. It ranks among the pack in fan or pundit surveys of NFL stadiums.

It’s not quite as sleek as the newest NFL stadiums in Las Vegas and Inglewood, Calif. The Ravens say they have invested more than $220 million to keep it up to date, including $120 million spent on population-designed improvements.

Dennis Coates, a sports economist at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, said it’s worth noting that neither the Orioles nor the Ravens are looking for fancy new spots.

“Stadiums are getting smaller in their active lives,” Coates called it a “positive” that neither Baltimore club was pushing for a new venue.

Under their lease, Ravens does not pay rent, but reimburses the authority for the cost of operation and maintenance.

The stadium is in an area in South Baltimore that the city hopes to transform into a popular entertainment district. As part of the lease talks, the Ravens hope to better connect the stadium to the nascent Warner Street Corridor.

City and business officials said the four-block mostly industrial corridor could attract hundreds of thousands of visitors annually, and reactivate the nearby Horseshoe Casino, which has fallen short of state revenue estimates in recent years. .

Plans for the district include a 4,000-seat concert hall, called Paramount and a. sum of topgolf driving range,

“This is going to be our future,” said Randy Conroy, general manager of Horseshoe, which courts Ravens fans and allows the team to use the team trademark and logo. “Topgolf and Paramount are the first pieces of the puzzle.”

Expect the Ravens, Cass said, “that the area between Horseshoe and Top Golf will become an important recreation area for the city, and we want to connect it to the stadium in a way that is understandable to all of us.”

Fans arriving from casinos near the new entertainment venues now face parking lots. Cass said the team envisions more welcoming access.

“A lot of fans will start coming from the south. Maybe we can put up a plaza there with activities for fans,” he said.

Kelso said the Stadium Authority “supports all of the Ravens’ efforts to better connect the Camden Yards Sports Complex to entertainment venues in the South.”

The Ravens and the stadium authority said it was too early to say they were “in talks.” The parties said they are in the early stages of discussions that began in earnest over the summer, although they had check-in before.

The stadium is also in discussion with the Orioles, whose lease was to expire at the end of the year, but has been extended until December 31, 2023.

Kelso said talking to both clubs about their leases provides an opportunity to take a holistic look at the stadium complex. He said the MSA and the teams are like economic development partners whose common goal is to create inviting spaces in and around stadiums.

“Thirty years ago, the approach was landlord-tenant, but today the teams are really our partners in delivering the maximum return on our collective investment,” Kelso said.