By Amanda Yeager | Baltimore Business Journal
The Orioles' announcement that Billy Joel will play the first-ever concert at Camden Yards is a play to draw more people to downtown Baltimore -- and a shift away from a long-held reluctance to open the field to more than baseball games.
Amid a challenging landscape for tourism in the city, the concert -- the first in a new partnership between the Orioles and event promoter Live Nation -- is expected to send thousands of people downtown to see Joel, an iconic singer-songwriter who has sold out dozens of shows at Madison Square Garden during recent years.
Joel's July 26 performance is the only Live Nation concert scheduled at Camden Yards so far, though the promoter and the Orioles said they hope to line up more shows in the future.
Camden Yards, which opened in 1992, has already made "a tremendous amount of economic impact through sports tourism," said John Angelos, the Orioles' executive vice president. "Now, next chapter, we're going to drive a whole heck of a lot of tourism impact through entertainment tourism."
The announcement comes at a time when the team and city have struggled to draw crowds.
The Orioles closed their 2018 season -- the worst in franchise history with a 47-115 record -- with a 23 percent decline in attendance. And while tourism grew overall in 2017, with 26.2 million people visiting Baltimore, trips from residents of surrounding counties have taken a slide, according to recent research commissioned by Visit Baltimore.
The Orioles have started the process of rebuilding, hiring general manager Mike Elias and manager Brandon Hyde to replace Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter. The team has also introduced a host of measures designed to get fans in the stands, including lowering concessions prices and offering free admission to children 9 years old and younger.
Angelos said the timing of the Live Nation partnership was not directly linked to last season's poor attendance, though he acknowledged that Joel's performance will put the stadium in the spotlight.
"If you can get somebody to come here for Billy Joel, a lot of those people are baseball fans," he said. "I think you do that in a down year, a middle year or an up year on the field. We owe it to the city and state to get people down there."
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles
Issue 251: February 2019