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The Baltimore Ravens are planning to upgrade M&T Bank Stadium after the 2016 season ends, with new scoreboards, upgraded concessions spaces, and other fan amenities.
The Maryland Stadium Authority yesterday approved plans by the Ravens to start $39 million worth of improvements in early 2017, as the first phase of a three-phase renovation program.
The additional work will cost approximately $71 million, bringing the total cost of improvements to $110 million. That is exactly half the amount the stadium cost to build, $220 million.

“The Ravens believe strongly that these fan amenities are very critical to them being able to maintain their fan base,” stadium authority chairman Thomas Kelso told board members during their monthly meeting.

“We believe that the improvements represent a significant upgrade to the stadium infrastructure and will contribute positively to the fan experience,” said stadium authority executive director Michael Frenz, in a letter to the board.

The Ravens have been hinting about plans to upgrade M&T Bank Stadium, which opened at Camden Yards in 1998.

Yesterday’s meeting marked the first time that the full scope of the $39 million first phase was presented in a public meeting. The details were provided in a five page “letter agreement” between the Baltimore Ravens Limited Partnership and the Maryland Stadium Authority, that was presented to the stadium authority board.

The team is expected to pay for the first phase of improvements, but the Maryland Stadium Authority board agreed yesterday to pay about $1.7 million to cover one cost associated with the changes. Payment terms for subsequent phases were not part of the board’s discussion yesterday.

Phase 1 does not change the number of seats in M&T Bank Stadium, but future phases could. The stadium has a capacity of more than 71,000.

The letter agreement does not constitute an amendment to the Ravens’ lease, and the state will not share in any increased ad revenues resulting from the improvements, the board members were told.

The scope of work also does not include construction of a large Ravens head that could swing out over Russell Street, an idea that was discussed when the stadium was being designed but was never realized.

According to the agreement letter, signed by Ravens president Richard Cass and approved by the stadium authority, Phase 1 improvements include:

Replacement of the east end and west end video boards with larger video boards.

Installation of “ribbon boards” around the upper level of the seating bowl.
Expansion of an AV control room and installation of equipment to support the new video boards.

Upgrades to club-level concessions spaces.

According to the letter, this work will be carried out during the off-season following the 2016 NFL season. The team has agreed to fund the work, which is expected to cost $39 million, and will give the stadium authority evidence that funding is in place before starting construction work, according to the letter from Cass. The Ravens will hold the design and construction contracts, but the stadium authority will have the right to approve designs, according to the letter.

Frenz told the stadium authority board that the stadium authority will pay off all outstanding debt on the existing video boards before they are removed from the stadium. He said the current outstanding balance on the debt is approximately $1.7 million and the team will reimburse the stadium authority for the cost of any prepayment penalty or fee associated with that payoff.
The agreement letter also addressed the scope of work in Phases 2 and 3, but not in as much detail.

It said Phase 2 would be carried out during the off season following the 2017 NFL season and Phase 3 would be carried out in the off season following the 2018 NFL season, and that both of those phases would be “entirely funded” by the team.

The estimated combined cost of the Phase 2 and 3 projects is $71 million. According to Cass’ letter, work would consist of the following:
Building new elevators and escalators to the upper bowl in two corners of the stadium.

Improving the existing kitchen in the east end zone and building a new suite kitchen on top of that kitchen.

Building a new suite in each of the four corner notches in the upper bowl.
Installing large video boards over the new corner suites.

The letter did not address exactly how the new corner suites and video boards would alter the design of the stadium. The notches were a key element of the original design, allowing fans to look in and out of the seating bowl and distinguishing Baltimore’s stadium from others around the country.

The letter agreement between the Ravens and the stadium authority was approved unanimously by the stadium authority board, except for one abstention.

Frenz said the stadium authority and the Ravens will continue to negotiate the terms of improvements in Phases 2 and 3.

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Ed Gunts

Ed Gunts is a local freelance writer and the former architecture critic for The Baltimore Sun.