By Thomas Kelso
The writer was chair of the Maryland Stadium Authority from 2015 to 2023 and chair of Gov. Larry Hogan’s reelection campaign.
The Maryland Stadium Authority is an incredible organization doing great work for the citizens of Maryland. While most of its work is not fully understood by the public, its record of best-in-class management of the Camden Yards complex, capital projects management for Baltimore City and various counties across Maryland, and its recruitment of youth, amateur and professional sporting events statewide has been well appreciated by the Maryland legislature and by every governor from Harry Hughes to Larry Hogan. In fact, the work to build the Authority and its incredible reputation has been a continuum from governor to governor and from chairman to chairman across nearly four decades. I can testify personally to the bond among former MSA chairs and the appreciation we each have for the roles we’ve played in making the Authority what it is today.
Under the Sept. 27th MOU between Gov. Wes Moore (D) and John Angelos, the MSA’s role at Camden Yards will change significantly and, to a great degree, the Stadium Authority will cease to exist. Even though the MSA’s statute says, in part, that the Authority’s purpose is to “determine the location of, develop, establish, construct, erect, acquire, own, repair, remodel, add to, extend, improve, equip, operate, regulate, and maintain facilities to the extent necessary to accomplish the purposes of the Authority,” the MOU will hand the obligation to repair, remodel, add to, extend, maintain, operate, improve and construct and erect at Oriole Park to the Orioles. Because of the “parity clause” included in the MSA’s lease with the Ravens, this right will extend to the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Team owners now and in the future will have these rights even though the stadiums are owned and financed by the citizens of Maryland and, if they are in disrepair, the taxpayers will be asked to spend money to do what should have been done all along.
This means is that the proceeds from bond issuances under the $1.2 billion stadium funding bill and any other money appropriated under the MOU will be given to the teams to spend as they see fit with no meaningful oversight by the MSA staff, the MSA Board and the Board of Public Works. It also means that the teams will have the right to maintain the stadiums as they may determine even if their judgement does not protect the long-term viability of the stadiums. There will no longer be MSA-run procurements for contractors and vendors. This means there will be no meaningful protections for minority business participation, no minority hiring requirements, and no requirement that contracts include prevailing wage requirements. By voting for a lease structured the way the MOU reads, the MSA Board and Board of Public Works will be eliminating their own roles in overseeing spending of taxpayer dollars. This is not what was contemplated with House Bill 896 was passed in 2022.
This also means that the MSA, as it was statutorily created and as we have come to know it, will no longer exist. The vision of Governors Hughes and Schaefer and the dedication to building the MSA by each successive governor, each legislature, 8 board chairs, scores of board members and, most importantly, the incredible staff of the MSA will be negated. It also means that many longstanding, accomplished and hard working MSA employees will be terminated. In fact, the process to eliminate these jobs started the day after the MOU was announced and continues today even though there is no lease approved by any public body.
The affected employees have done great work for the Authority. They have families, rely on the benefits provided as part of their compensation and are counting on their Maryland pensions. These are, for the most part, professional stadium management experts so the offer to transfer them to other state agencies will never be comparable from a job satisfaction perspective. There is no way these employees can be made whole. Who treats dedicated and accomplished employees like this?
If you agree with me, I ask that you join me in asking the governor to rethink the decision to eliminate the MSA’s role at Camden Yards and to immediately stop any actions to eliminate the incredible people who do this work for the authority.