[Baltimore Sun] Ravens stadium upgrades could make special events ‘more viable’

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In addition to NFL Sundays, the Ravens’ M&T Bank Stadium has recently been home to one or two major special events a year: concerts from artists such as Stevie Nicks and Billy Joel, international soccer matches and college football showdowns featuring Maryland and Navy.

As the venue undergoes more than $400 million in state-funded renovations that the team and its landlord, the Maryland Stadium Authority, hope will extend the stadium’s useful life by decades, it could become “more viable” for special events, according to Ravens leadership.

This summer, the usual buzz of a Ravens game day experience has been replaced with dust, carpentry equipment and half-built structures. Swapping out football helmets for construction ones, crews are working on the first of a three-year project to upgrade the stadium, expecting improvements to be made by the time the stadium hosts iconic soccer brands AC Milan and FC Barcelona on Aug. 6.

Ravens executives led members of the Baltimore media through a hard-hat tour of the active construction site Wednesday, dodging wires hanging from the ceiling in the process. Much will remain the same, but exclusive suites, a beer hall and an upgraded club level are being added to the stadium, which first opened in 1998.

English Premier League teams Arsenal and Everton played at the stadium in 2022, as did Notre Dame and Navy football, and last October Stevie Nicks and Billy Joel performed. Maryland officials had hoped the stadium would see men’s World Cup action in 2026, but Baltimore narrowly missed out on hosting matches.

Equipped with a soon-to-be improved stadium, Ravens president Sashi Brown said they’re “really committed” to attracting “more events here.”

“The stadium is already really viable. We think this makes the stadium even more viable for concerts, soccer matches, college football games, as well,” he said Wednesday on the field at M&T Bank Stadium.

There are no special events scheduled this fall and, for the next couple of years, the stadium’s hosting schedule will be somewhat limited as construction is expected to take place during the spring and summer. Asked if there was a goal as to how many special events per year will be held at the venue, Brown said: “We haven’t set that, but we’re going to get after them aggressively.”

The first event with some of the new renovations will be the August soccer match. It will give Charm City a chance to impress members of the elite European sides, some of whom might not know much about Baltimore.

Yunus Musah, a midfielder for AC Milan, is a member of the U.S. Men’s National Team but grew up in Europe. Asked in an interview with The Baltimore Sun what he thinks of when he thinks of Baltimore, he demurred, saying, “Just an American city, that’s it really.”

Construction upgrades are underway inside and outside M&T Bank Stadium to enhance the game day experience for fans. (Kevin Richardson/Staff)

Ravens president Sashi Brown speaks to the media about the construction taking place at M&T Bank Stadium to enhance the gameday experience for fans. (Kevin Richardson/Staff)

Construction upgrades are underway inside and outside M&T Bank Stadium to enhance the game day experience for fans. (Kevin Richardson/Staff)

Construction upgrades are underway inside and outside at M&T Bank Stadium to enhance the gameday experience for fans. (Kevin Richardson/Staff)

Construction upgrades are underway inside and outside at M&T Bank Stadium to enhance the gameday experience for fans. (Kevin Richardson/Staff)

Construction upgrades are underway inside and outside at M&T Bank Stadium to enhance the gameday experience for fans. (Kevin Richardson/Staff)

Construction upgrades are underway inside and outside at M&T Bank Stadium to enhance the gameday experience for fans. (Kevin Richardson/Staff)

Construction upgrades are underway inside and outside at M&T Bank Stadium to enhance the gameday experience for fans. (Kevin Richardson/Staff)

Construction upgrades are underway inside and outside at M&T Bank Stadium to enhance the gameday experience for fans. (Kevin Richardson/Staff)

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But he also said he looked forward to the chance to play in front of American supporters — many of whom rarely get to see top international teams play. When Arsenal and Everton came to Baltimore in 2022, the announced attendance was 39,245.

“It’s a huge moment for both us and the fans,” Musah said of playing in front of a new audience.

The match will be one of three U.S. stops for AC Milan, which will also play in Chicago and New York City. FC Barcelona will also play friendlies in Orlando and MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

“Getting things sorted and being in the best shape possible to start the season, that’s the main focus,” Musah said.

When fans stream into the stadium for the soccer match, and then a few days later for the Ravens’ preseason opener against the Philadelphia Eagles on Aug. 9, some of the stadium upgrades will be available to all ticket-holders. That includes a 10,000-square foot beer hall that will open ahead of games and, potentially, on occasional non-game days.

Other publicly funded improvements will be reserved for the affluent. The Blackwing, 10 already-sold-out suites billed as a “five-star” experience complete with concierge service, will be “one of the most special experiences in sports,” Brown said.

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There will be additional upgrades to suites and clubs ahead of the 2025 season and final renovations before the 2026 season.

The upgrades were made possible by a 2022 state law that permits the stadium authority to borrow up to $1.2 billion in bonds at one time to improve M&T Bank Stadium and Oriole Park at Camden Yards — $600 million for each. Accessing the money, however, requires the teams sign leases long enough to pay off those bonds, which will be done with funds generated from the state lottery.

Maryland’s Board of Public Works last year approved up to $450 million in bonds for the projects, but Brown said the renovations could cost “somewhere well into the $400 millions.” He said the Ravens will “probably end up” also paying for some of the renovations. The team recently self-funded a $120 million project to improve the stadium, completed ahead of the 2019 season.

The Ravens current lease is set to expire after the 2037 season. If the Ravens were to seek more state bonds for the project, they would need to exercise one of their two five-year options to extend the lease, Brown said.

“Really appreciate our partners at [the Maryland Stadium Authority], appreciate the citizens of Maryland for trusting us and investing in this stadium,” Brown said. “This is really going to transform M&T Bank Stadium and make us relevant for the next 15 or more years and seasons here.”

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