The Orioles didn’t start the concert craze at major league ballparks, but they’re jumping into the fire.
If this sentence even remotely resembles the lyrics from a Billy Joel song, my work here is almost done.
The club announced today the launching of O’s Entertainment and in its partnership with Live Nation will host Joel this summer in the first concert at Camden Yards, which opened in 1992. The event will take place on July 26 while the Orioles are in Anaheim in the middle of their three-city West Coast trip.
The Orioles Charitable Foundation will donate a portion of the proceeds from the concert to support music and arts education programs for kids in Maryland and across the team’s regional territory.
Tickets go on sale Jan. 18 at 10 a.m. at ticketmaster.com. American Express card members will have access to tickets from Jan. 14-17 and Orioles season plan holders will be granted access between 10 a.m. Jan. 16 and 10 p.m. Jan. 17.
“We could not be more proud to have the legendary performer Billy Joel as the first artist to go on the field at Camden Yards and sing all of the great songs that he has written and performed for many, many years,” said Orioles executive vice president John Angelos during a press conference on the sixth floor of the warehouse that also included Live Nation Baltimore/DC/Va. chief operating officer Wilson Howard and Live Nation Baltimore/DC/Va. president Kelly Flanigan.
“The importance of this to us is that this is what the Orioles do. We are an entertainment company. We’ve put on over 2,500 baseball games here and in Florida through the years. Our job is to be a good public/private partner and to drive visitors to Baltimore City. Just the other day former Gov. (Martin) O’Malley said something about Baltimore being major league and I couldn’t agree more.
“Baltimore is a big deal. Billy Joel is important. To have Billy Joel here and be partnering with the Orioles and Camden Yards and everybody involved is tremendously important. Bringing folks to downtown Baltimore. Tying the Harbor and the Camden Yards complex together and getting a football and baseball team together was a great (vision). It’s really paid off. It’s driven a tremendous amount of economic impact through sports tourism, and now the next chapter, we’re going to drive a whole heck of a lot of tourism impact through entertainment tourism.
“Billy Joel’s the first. Hopefully, he’s the first of many. Hopefully, there will be other forms of events we’ll be able to attract here through O’s Entertainment. We’re certainly going to give it our every effort, just as I know the Ravens do and the state does. To start with a legend like Billy is a great opportunity and we’re really looking forward to it.”
The Ravens hosted Joel, 69, at M&T Bank Stadium in July 2015. The six-time Grammy Award winnter is familiar with the area.
The Orioles have brought in performers for abbreviated weekend pregame and postgame sets over the past few years, including a “Friday Fireworks and Music at America’s Ballpark” promotion, but Joel’s concert is the first of this magnitude at Camden Yards. Capacity seating will be 37,000.
“We’re so excited to be involved in this,” Howard said. “I’ve been thinking - Billy Joel, Camden Yards, Baltimore. I mean, it doesn’t get much better than this.
“As Billy’s agent was planning the tour, it’s been our dream to play Camden Yards. This is a six-year run of stadiums and we’ve always wanted to play Camden Yards.”
Dennis Arfa, Joel’s agent, placed a call to Angelos, who contacted Live Nation. An agreement was struck to put Joel in a Baltimore state of mind on July 26. It was just a matter of time - and trust.
Both sides were keeping the faith.
I’m almost done.
The stop in Baltimore is part of Joel’s annual tour of Major League Baseball ballparks that in 2019 includes Miller Park in Milwaukee, Coors Field in Denver, Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia and Chase Field in Phoenix. Nationals Park in D.C. has hosted concerts in the past, including Joel and Elton John in 2009.
Managing partner Peter G. Angelos has been resistant in the past to approving concerts at the ballpark. The rock band Van Halen filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit against “Orioles Entertainment” in 2004, seeking at least $2 million in damages after claiming that the team backed out of a deal.
The Orioles wanted to bolster stadium revenue by bringing in major shows, winning the right three years earlier in a legal battle with the Maryland Stadium Authority, but it didn’t happen. However, John Angelos and ownership representative Louis Angelos have assumed the day-to-day operations of the club and are moving in a new direction on many fronts.
John Angelos said there are no concerns about damaging the field at Camden Yards.
“We get all the best professionals involved,” he said. “Wilson and his staff and Kelly and her crew have done these shows many, many times and we have a great groundskeeper here (Nicole Sherry) and a great understanding of our field and Live Nation has a great understanding of how to put the shows on.
“I think for many years there were some concerns about the field. I think over time we had a lot of focus on developing the media platforms. And baseball is interesting. As most of you know, baseball brings the most people down for live events. We’ve talked about over the years that baseball and music are the two largest sellers of tickets by far. Last year, MLB sold over 70 million tickets and minor league baseball sold around 40 million. That’s 110 million tickets. You can roll all the other sports leagues together, and they’re all great leagues, but they get to about half that.
“So, you take those 110 million tickets that baseball sells, add to it, I don’t even know how many tickets are sold for live music events, (but) this is the perfect marriage of baseball and live music. That’s why the last few years we’ve been doing some events here and there, predominantly in Florida. That’s why we started to do events last year with a little bit of music for Friday fireworks, just to try things out in the marketplace. This is obviously a spectacular event, but from small to spectacular, you want to try to touch people in different ways and give people additional reasons to come to the ballpark. It took some time, but we’re here now.”
The Orioles have gone public with their plans to rebuild, which could put winning on the shelf at least for the next few years. The concerts are a way to attract more fans and positive publicity to the area following a dramatic dip in attendance last season.
“If you can get somebody to come here for Billy Joel, if you can get somebody to come here for all different genres of music, a lot of those people are baseball fans because so many people are baseball fans. And vice-versa,” Angelos said.
“If you can introduce someone to music through baseball, to baseball through music, why wouldn’t you do that? But I think you do that in a down year, a middle year or an up year on the field. I just think it’s something you do because we’re in the entertainment business. In a lot of ways I think we owe it to the city and the state to work it for all we can and get people down here.”
The decline in attendance has been blamed in part to the perception of the city as an unsafe place, the images of the rioting after Freddie Gray’s death while in police custody four years ago still fresh.
“I think that it’s more important to fight for a perception than to fight against one,” Angelos said. “I think it’s good to tell the good story about Baltimore. I know people have been concerned through the years about some of the storylines and some of the realities, but let’s tell the story about, I know the mayor’s working hard on safety, I know the governor is very interested in safety. And every mayor and governor is around the country.
“There is absolutely an interest there. I know different civic and chambers are working hard on that. But I think we should focus on telling all the good stories. Why did so many people come to Baltimore for all the years? What does Baltimore have to offer? The pendulum always swings in one direction or the other. There’s always an opportunity that people are going to come downtown. And I think people will come downtown.
“A million and a half people came last year, over 2 million came for over baseball and football last year, millions came to the Harbor, the (Royal Farms) Arena does rather well with events throughout the year. So, millions of people are coming to downtown Baltimore. The task is to tell the good points, get the story out there and then create events that bring people down. And I think you start getting some momentum on safety the other way.”
Angelos also revealed that country music star Cole Swindell will perform at the Ed Smith Stadium complex this spring in Sarasota, where the Orioles will continue to host a gala event revolving around Nashville artists in a charitable event outside the main stadium.
As for future shows in Baltimore, Angelos wasn’t ready to provide a specific number.
“It’s a case of first impression,” he said. “You want to get the first one going, you want it to be a great act, you want to do it with a great partner and we’ve gotten that underway and then we’ll see. I think you want to do the things that are responsibly planned and they predominantly pay off in terms of driving visitors to downtown Baltimore. That’s what we’re here to do.”
Notes: Former Orioles infielder Tim Beckham has signed a one-year deal with the Mariners worth a guaranteed $1.75 million with a possible $250,000 in incentives.
The Orioles non-tendered Beckham, who was projected by MLBTradeRumors.com to earn $4.3 million in arbitration.
Former Orioles hitting coach Rick Down passed away Saturday at his Las Vegas home. He was 68.
The Orioles set a major league record with 257 home runs in Down’s first season with the club in 1996. His tenure ran through the 1998 season.