Allegany Communications Sports­­

Baltimore Orioles Chairman and CEO John Angelos originally suggested a new long-term lease for the club at Oriole Park at Camden Yards could come as “an All-Star break gift” in July for Baltimore fans, which, of course, didn’t happen.

Five months later, though, after five years of negotiations and unknown angst amongst Orioles fans, consider it the best Christmas gift, as the Orioles and the state of Maryland formally agreed to a lease to keep the team at Oriole Park for as many as 30 years.

The Maryland Stadium Authority board unanimously voted in favor of the agreement on Monday morning and the Board of Public Works unanimously approved it Monday afternoon, less than two weeks before the current lease expires.

The new deal does not yet lease public land to the Orioles for development, which was the major sticking point in the negotiations, but outlines a 30-year lease agreement that would take effect once the state and team can agree to terms on those development rights before the end of 2027.

Angelos has said and has promised many things in his short time as the franchise’s MLB-appointed caretaker, in place of his ailing father Peter Angelos, and one of the first was the Orioles would “be in Baltimore for as long as Fort McHenry is standing watch of the Inner Harbor,” which was, and remains, a pretty catchy way of saying it, but leads many of us to believe he heard someone else say it at a cocktail party, and then used it.

To say a great many of us did not/do not trust John Angelos, and believed he was capable of using any means to move the Orioles to Nashville, as his younger brother Louis suggested he would do in a lawsuit he filed against his mother and his brother (lovely family), would be accurate.

Those of us who have lived and died with Baltimore sports have been suspicious of anyone with the surname Angelos from the beginning, and there is no sense in rehashing the many reasons why just a few days before Christmas, and with a long-term lease signed, sealed and delivered.

It’s just our nature. We love Baltimore, and for anyone who loves Baltimore, the memory of the NFL Colts leaving town for Indianapolis will never die, because, as loved as the Ravens are by Baltimore, the scar of the Colts leaving is permanent. That’s just Bawlmer, hon, so besides the length of the deal, it was important for Baltimore to know that, as with the current lease, the Orioles’ new lease includes a “no relocation” clause.

The Orioles could choose to reduce their term to 15 years in the event an agreement is not reached on a development plan, but both Gov. Wes Moore and Angelos have been referring to it as a 30-year deal, Moore telling reporters, “We’re all committed to making sure that this becomes a 30-plus year deal for the Baltimore Orioles.”

The longer 30-year term would be triggered if the club receives the necessary governmental approvals for a separate ground lease granting it rights to redevelop state-owned properties surrounding Camden Yards.

This is such a big deal for Baltimore, for Orioles fans, naturally, but for the city itself, as it finds itself at the cusp of its first downtown revitalization in over 40 years.

Moore wrote in the Baltimore Sun that whenever a short-term deal was suggested in negotiations for the sake of meeting the Dec. 31 deadline, he balked: “I would not accept that. We needed to ensure predictability for the city, the state, the fans and the business community.

“… By keeping the Orioles at Camden Yards for the long run — regardless of ownership structure — we’ve sent a clear message to the private sector: Investing in Baltimore is a winning strategy. Oriole Park at Camden Yards is a crown jewel of the city, and downtown businesses will draw the attention of hundreds of thousands of fans who flock to the stadium each year. Baltimore was just ranked one of the fastest-growing economies in the nation, and this deal further accelerates growth downtown and throughout the city.

“In the coming years, we plan to pursue a development agreement with partners in the public and private sectors to reimagine areas around the ballpark. Together, we are striving to build a live-work-play environment where entrepreneurs can thrive, minority-owned businesses can find a long-term home, Marylanders can access everything they need within a single district and our tax base is strong.”

Just as important as economic growth is the city’s self-esteem. Baltimore has taken a lot of hits since the turn of this century, many deserved. Losing its Major League baseball team, which Angelos and Commissioner Rob Manfred assured all along would not happen, would have been the biggest hit of them all. In fact, it would have been bigger, and worse, than losing the Colts.

But, then, nobody ever believed the Colts would really leave. Even with Irsay.

Until 1954 when the St. Louis Browns came to Baltimore (what is it about Baltimore and teams named Browns?), the city was nothing more than a stopover to Philadelphia and New York. It was the poor cousin of Washington, D.C. and was known for horse racing, duckpin bowling, Blaze Starr and for its minor league baseball team selling its own, Babe Ruth.

When the Browns became the Orioles, Baltimore became a big-league city, not only in the baseball sense, but in the real sense — the self-esteem sense. When the Colts, who had owned the Baltimore sportscape since the early 1950s, left in 1984, it was the Orioles who remained the spirit and the pride of the city and its citywide self-esteem.

It was the Orioles, and it was Major League Baseball, that carried the city and its self-esteem and pride to generate the Camden Yards complex and, in turn, the return of the NFL.

It’s comforting for those of us who love Baltimore to know that pride and self-esteem will be intact and will grow even stronger over the next generation.

This long-term lease for the Orioles was a vitally important job that was extremely well done.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT