As the Orioles continue lease negotiations with the state to remain at Oriole Park at Camden Yards beyond this year, they have hired Kerry Watson as vice president of public affairs. Watson, who worked 20 years as a Prince George’s County police officer and, recently, as an MGM Resorts executive, is the first African American on the Orioles’ senior leadership team.
In his role, Watson will oversee “Government Affairs, Communications, Community Development and Creative Content,” according to a news release from the Orioles.
The club also promoted Lisa Tolson, who has worked for the Orioles for 38 years, to chief people officer and longtime club executive Greg Bader to chief operating officer.
In a news release, Orioles Chairman and CEO John Angelos lauded the Orioles’ “incredible team.”
“The entire Orioles organization welcomes Greg, Kerry, and Lisa to their new executive positions as the Orioles continue our commitment to building a diverse and skilled senior leadership team managing the club,” he said in a statement.
There will be no departures from the Orioles’ leadership team as part of these changes.
The addition and promotions come at a critical juncture for the Orioles. The club, whose lease at Camden Yards expires Dec. 31, has been negotiating with its landlord, the state of Maryland, for years. A 2022 law, which passed through the General Assembly with support from both the Orioles and Ravens, would allow the Maryland Stadium Authority to fully access $600 million in bonds to improve Oriole Park — provided a long-term lease is signed.
Originally a 30-year lease when the ballpark opened in 1992, the agreement was extended in its final year, 2021, to this year. Officials in Gov. Wes Moore’s administration said recently that the goal is to agree not to another brief extension, but rather one that spans decades. The lease is crucial for many reasons, including that it formally binds the team to Baltimore.
Both the state and the club are hoping to develop the area around Oriole Park to create an entertainment district, which has become a popular trend in other cities. Moore, a Democrat, said last month that talks with the Orioles can produce a lease as well as a development plan.
Negotiations, though, have included significant asks from Angelos. He sought the development rights to three state-owned parking lots in the Camden Yards complex, which the Ravens also use, as well as $300 million more in public investment, sources told The Baltimore Sun.
The Orioles also retained federal lobbyists in June. According to a registration document, the lobbyists’ efforts will focus on working with Maryland’s members of Congress to “build support for federal appropriations and grants” for infrastructure, transportation and homeland security in Baltimore and the surrounding area.
“Efforts will focus on supporting the revitalization efforts for Baltimore [City’s] Inner Harbor District and the Entertainment District which includes both major league franchise stadiums in the City,” the document said.
The NFL’s Ravens are also a significant party to negotiations thanks to a parity clause in the pro teams’ leases, which prevents the state from giving a more advantageous arrangement to one team over the other.
Despite ongoing negotiations, both the Orioles and the state have said they are confident a deal will get done.
“The Orioles have been reliable, community-minded partners,” David Turner, a senior adviser and communications director for Moore, said in a statement last month, “and we are working together to secure the team’s future at Camden Yards for decades to come.”
Included in a news release from the Orioles on Thursday outlining the new hire and promotions were endorsements from leaders outside the ballclub.
“I am excited to see Greg [Bader] continue to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion at the ballpark and within the local community as he takes on this new role and brings the Orioles even more success,” Chuck Tildon, vice president of external affairs for the University of Maryland Medical System, said in a statement.
Bader, who is gay, has worked for the Orioles since 1994, when he started as a public relations intern.
Cassie Motz, the executive director of CollegeBound, whom the Orioles pledged $5 million to earlier this year, said of Tolson: “Lisa’s commitment to Baltimore is unmatched.”
Watson’s position with the Orioles is a newly created one. He comes to the club from MGM Resorts International, where he most recently was vice president of government affairs.
Before that, he worked as a lobbyist and as a police officer in Prince George’s County. There, he got to know Maryland Treasurer Dereck Davis, a former delegate who represented the county.
“I applaud the Orioles for their investment in leaders like Kerry who are committed to a positive partnership with the City of Baltimore and the State of Maryland,” Davis said in the release.
Baltimore Sun reporter Jeff Barker contributed to this article.