What Lies Ahead For Joe Flacco, M&T Bank Stadium?
RSR’s 20 For 20 series has for the most part been a trip down memory lane told by those who are close to the team, part of the team or just a fan of the team. During my recent sit down with Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, besides asking him to take a retrospective look at 20 years, I asked him to look into the future and share his visions for Joe Flacco, M&T Bank Stadium and the National Football League.
TL: Steve, I want to share a quote expressed about you.
“Steve is a great leader. The players love him, they love when he’s around and he’s an inspiration to all of our guys, to me, to this organization. He set the tone here. It’s a great organization because of his vision.”
That was from John Harbaugh.
With that in mind I want to test your vision a little bit.
What does the future hold for Joe Flacco?
SB: I don’t think that anybody in the NFL appreciates Joe Flacco more than we do in the Ravens. He has been maligned and ridiculed for being average for 7 years and yet he has some stats that put him, when we talk about the postseason, among the all-time greats. I believe that Joe at 30 can still win a couple Super Bowls. I think he will! And I hope that he gets an opportunity to do what Elway did (although [Elway] wasn’t sitting on one when he won his last two) – to win one and then calls us to say that this is my last year, like Ray did.
I know that Ray could have played one more year at mortal status, an average linebacker. [But] he got to go out on top. As a fan and a supporter of Joe, I hope he wins another in the next few years and I hope he wins another at 38 years old and says, “Sayonara”. I hope that we don’t have to see him in San Diego like we saw Johnny U.
TL: Back to your vision again. What do you foresee for M&T Bank Stadium?
SB: Well you’re doing a 20 For 20, the fact that we’ve been in that stadium 18 years is crazy to me. There will never be another place for a stadium. That Camden Yards complex – Baltimore was made for that. The idea that you could move that anywhere else is preposterous.
So we’re going to be faced with needing some major renovations. Dick [Cass] has done a great job and the Maryland Stadium Authority has done a great job coming together and helping us. I think we put $35 million in renovations over the last 3 years and Maryland Stadium Authority has kicked in a third of that money and the Ravens have done the rest.
Probably the one thing that we need that would take a lot of money that we just can’t do in one offseason, is escalators to the upstairs. I wish we had them. Half our fans are up there. But in order to do escalators and more bathrooms and all of that stuff you’re really looking at taking the stadium out from it – to make the footprint bigger. You can’t just keep stuffing things within the confines of the original footprint.
You see these stadiums costing a billion to build now, and they built that one 18 years ago for $200 million. So in the next 12 years my lease is up. We are going to have to work with the State and make sure that we keep it up to a level that it would probably need only 1 big renovation in order to catapult back into a top 10 stadium. I kind of think it probably still is although half of the other stadiums have probably been built since ours has.
I’m not jealous of other stadiums. We don’t need a dome in Baltimore. I wouldn’t want a dome. The retractable domes might be great for the city like a convention center is great for a city so that you could then have 200 things there other than football. And it would be wonderful for the city if that was in our long, long-term future.
I don’t know that I’m going to own this team until the day I die. If I end up selling the team 10 years from now and there’s 2 years left on the lease it’s going to create a tough situation for Baltimore with a new owner who would have leverage over the team and Baltimore that I might not exercise myself. I’m 55 and I don’t see myself as the 65-year old guy who’s threatening to move the team if he doesn’t get a new stadium.
I think that we have to make progress [with the stadium] every year and then maybe have a long-term plan to do one major renovation that’s done 10 years from now so that we can sign another 30-year lease and secure this thing until way past the time I die and sell the team.
TL: Your vision for the NFL…what are opportunities that excite you for the league and what are some of your biggest concerns?
SB: I see so many intelligent people in the NFL from 32 owners to the league office. I don’t really have any worries about the future of the NFL, the income streams – I think that kind of solves itself. I don’t really have much to say [in that regard]. We’ve dealt with the concussion law suit and of course the domestic violence issue is front and [center] since last year. I just don’t see anything major changing, again, certainly in my lifetime.
The “appointment TV” that the NFL has become with TV viewers, has become more fractured and I’m sure that like me you watch most of your shows On Demand, in one way shape or form. If somebody recommends a great show, and they say, “I can’t believe you haven’t watched it, it’s in Season 3.” So you tell your wife to go and buy Season 1 and 2 and then you watch it in 3 months.
TL: Binge watching! I did that exact same thing, watching 5 seasons of Breaking Bad in 3 months and 8 seasons of Sons of Anarchy in 5 months.
SB: Exactly! I did every one of them. The Wire, Sopranos, Sons of Anarchy, Breaking Bad, all of them. Now I’m on to Lilyhammer and Ray Donovan.
TL: Just started Donovan myself and Game of Thrones.
SB: I’m about to start Games. I haven’t done it yet. They’ve all said you’ve gotta do it. So that’ll be my one when Renee is watching Top Chef or Gordon Ramsay or whatever, then I’ll get into one.
TL: But you’re right, the way viewers consume that content is fractured and chances are it will become even more fractured.
SB: You know we’ve heard doom over Sunday Night games and Thursday Night games and that never comes to fruition. We have an appetite for sports in general and nobody TiVo’s them. It’s there and so are the advertisers. We’re not becoming obsolete and if anything we’re becoming a stronger brand and appointment TV.