Four of the most distinctive features of M&T Bank Stadium are the notches in the corners that allow fans to look out of the seating bowl and see the city all around.
Those notches will be partially filled in by “double decker” club suites and giant video screens as part of a $120 million plan to upgrade the stadium over the next three years.
The Maryland Stadium Authority voted yesterday to approve an agreement between the state and the Baltimore Ravens Limited Partnership that spells out the changes the team would make to upgrade the state-owned stadium.
The agreement calls for the Ravens to pay $120 million for the improvements they want and for the state to pay up to $24 million for additional upgrades that are needed to keep the stadium in top condition. It goes to the state’s Board of Public Works on January 25 for approval.
The proposed improvements are actually the second phase of a multi-year upgrade for M&T Bank Stadium. The first phase primarily involves $39 million worth of changes to the video boards and was approved by the Stadium Authority and the Board of Public Works last year. Some work on that phase has begun, and the $39 million is part of the larger $120 million in improvements for which the Ravens are paying.
The complete scope of work in Phase 1 includes 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, and upgrades to club-level concessions spaces.
In presenting renderings of the latest changes during the Stadium Authority meeting yesterday, Ravens president Richard Cass said the team wanted to improve the fan experience and keep the stadium competitive with others in the NFL.
He noted that M&T Bank Stadium cost $220 million when it opened in 1998 and the Ravens have spent another $100 on upgrades since then. He said some of the stadiums planned for the NFL cost upwards of $1.5 billion and have amenities that weren’t available when M&T Bank Stadium opened, and the Ravens want to complete upgrades that provide some of the same features of the newer stadiums.
“We are in a situation where we really need to work very hard to keep our stadium fresh,” Cass said. “Our Game Day experience is a great one, but we need to keep spending money if we are going to stay competitive with the league…This project is very important to us.”
In some cases, Cass said, the Phase 2 changes involve improvements that will make it easier for fans to get to seats in the upper level of the seating bowl. Plans call for two sets of escalators and elevators that will be visible on the outside of the stadium, at the southeast and southwest corners of the stadium.
The latest improvements also involve upgrading the existing kitchen in the east end zone and building a new kitchen on top of that of that one to serve the club suites.
In place of the notched corners, the team plans to build “double decker” club suites overlooking the field, topped by giant video boards. One rendering indicated that even with the video boards, it will still be possible to see partially out of the notches, but the stadium is likely to feel more enclosed that it does now.
Populous of Kansas City is the architect for the upgrades. Populous is the successor to HOK Sport, which designed the stadium.
Cass appeared before the Stadium Authority with Roy Sommerhof, senior vice president of stadium operations, and Brandon Etheridge, the Ravens’ general counsel.
The Stadium Authority board approved the agreement outlining the Phase 2 improvements by a vote of 6 to 0, with one abstention.
According to stadium authority executive director Michael Frenz., construction work on the improvements will be carried out in 2017, 2018 and 2019, during the NFL off seasons.
“It’s really going to make a difference,” said stadium authority chairman Thomas Kelso.
“We’re excited about this project,” Cass told the stadium authority board members. “We’re looking forward to getting it done.”