October 20, 2009

Authority seeks $10.6 million for stadium fixes

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By Andy Rosen
andy@marylandreporter.com

UPDATED: 2:10 p.m. Wednesday, 10/21/09

The Maryland Stadium Authority is asking the state to spend about $10.6 million to help fix up Oriole Park at Camden Yards and buy a new audio visual system at M&T Bank Stadium, according to filings with the Board of Public Works.

The BPW was scheduled to vote Wednesday on the two stadium proposals, along with a third measure that would allow the state to borrow money for the improvements, but the MSA temporarily withdrew the proposal. It is expected back in two weeks.

The moves are necessary even though they come in a tight fiscal time for the organization, said MSA Spokeswoman Jan Hardesty. It decided last month to pare its budget for fiscal 2010 by $10 million. The 11.2 percent decrease left the authority’s budget at $75.4 million — near this year’s spending level.

The video screen at M&T, where the Baltimore Ravens play, will cost about $3.4 million, which will be split by the team and the state. The Ravens’ share is about 58%. The state is picking up the entire $9.2 million cost of the Camden Yards improvements, which involve renovations to the club level and structural fixes.

Hardesty said the audio and visual equipment at M&T is obsolete. It is original to the stadium, completed in 1998, and has aged to the point where officials can no longer get replacement parts when they fail. The new boards will show video in high definition. The Camden Yards improvements are crucial to maintenance of the building, she said.

“The good side of it is because of the economic climate we can probably get better prices on things because there’s more competition,” Hardesty said. “It’s not the optimum time, but remember, we have a commitment.”

The authority is asking the BPW to let it borrow up to $24 million, which would be paid back through a combination of stadium revenues, lottery proceeds and energy savings from efficiency improvements that the agency wants to make. The MSA is likely to appear before the BPW again soon with a proposal for energy savings at Camden Yards.