Baltimore held its annual tax sale earlier this week, where bidders could vie for the right to take on unpaid taxes and water bills from property owners in exchange for the right to charge those owners interest or possibly foreclose on property if the bills remain unpaid. In theory, this allows the city of Baltimore to keep its coffers full and pass off the duty of tax collection, while some Baltimore activists have noted that it creates a loophole that allows predatory buyers to snatch people’s homes over small unpaid bills.
Two buildings that nobody expected joined the sale this year: the city’s pro sports stadiums. As the Baltimore Sun reported, the Maryland Stadium Authority owed $5,200 in unpaid water bills for the Ravens stadium and $63,500 in bills and taxes on the Orioles stadium. Two different investment groups snapped them up, hoping more for a chance to collect some interest than actually take over the buildings.
Alexander Diener and Herbert Baeuerle won the lien on the Ravens stadium and joked that they didn’t even realize what they’d won at the time. They joked that they’d turn the stadium into a pro soccer stadium if they somehow foreclosed on it:
Diener’s company offered $21 million for the Ravens stadium’s debt — an amount they’d only have to pay if they foreclose on the property. On Monday afternoon, Diener was at Nick’s Fish House in South Baltimore and hadn’t checked to see what happened in the auction.
Diener and Baeuerle are from Germany. Baeurele said that if they somehow took ownership of the stadium, they’d consider evicting the Ravens and installing a soccer team. But he doesn’t expect the process to go that far.
However, the Maryland Stadium Authority didn’t exactly find the bureaucratic own to be very funny. Chief financial officer David Raith told the Wall Street Journal that they wouldn’t pay any interest, and that the stadiums never should have hit auction to begin with, since they’re owned by the state. The city later acknowledged that the stadiums only got placed on the list due to a technical error.
Later on Tuesday, the city’s Department of Public Works said including the football stadium and its baseball neighbor, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, on the auction list had been a mistake because the facilities are exempt from the tax-sale process.
“The properties went to tax sale due to a computer coding error,” a public-works spokesman said.
The sales will apparently be voided, and the dream of somehow buying an NFL stadium for five percent of its value is dead.