Young: Deal To Keep Preakness In Baltimore “Historic”
There is a tentative deal between Baltimore City and the owners of Pimlico Race Course to keep the Preakness in Baltimore.
The Baltimore Sun first reported this morning the Stronach Group will donate the land where the track sits to the city or another entity created by the city to develop the surrounding neighborhood.
Alan Rifkin, attorney for the Stronach Group confirmed the deal to WBAL NewsRadio 1090 and FM 101.5.
“If there was ever a chance to save the Preakness in Baltimore, this is it,” Rifkin told WBAL’s Bill Vanko.
Rifkin described the talks to reach a deal as, “a bit of a labor but worth every moment.”
Under the deal the current grandstand and clubhouse at Pimlico would be demolished and rebuilt.
The Pimlico track would be rotated 30 degrees to create nine parcels of land that could be developed.
Laurel Park would be renovated and Stroanch would sell the Bowie Training Center.
The redevelopment would cost $375 million and would be paid for through bonds, paid off through the Racetrack Renewal Fund, which is funded by casino proceeds.
The deal would require the state legislature to extend the life of the casino fund to 2032. That fund is set to expire in 2026.
Legislation would also be required to allow Stronach to use the casino money to pay off bond debt.
Rifkin said that he is confident the legislature will pass an extension, and noting the process to creat the deal has been transparent.
He says the rebuilding cost under the deal is coming at a fraction of the cost of previous proposals.
“I have never seen more political support for a project of this magnitude on day one, then what we have seen already,” Rifkin added.
In statements to the newspaper both Mayor Jack Young and Belinda Stronach, chairwoman of the Stronach Group, praised the deal.
In a statement released Saturday afternoon, Mayor Young called the deal, “a historic moment,” and added the plans are, “not only thoughtful, but visionary.”
Young encourages state lawmakers to approve the deal, and notes it is also endorsed by Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski, and Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman. Much of Laurel Park is located in Anne Arundel County.
Young submitted a letter Friday offering details of the agreement to Governor Larry Hogan, Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Adrienne Jones.
A spokesman for Governor Larry Hogan declined to comment on the deal Saturday morning. Spokespersons for Miller and Jones did not return emails from WBAL NewsRadio on Saturday.
Earlier this year, Baltimore City, under the leadership of then Mayor Catherine Pugh, sued the Stronach Group to prevent the Preakness from being moved out of Baltimore.
The suit was later dropped, and the talks to reach the deal took place over the last four months, since Young became Mayor after Pugh’s resignation in May.
Rifkin praised Young’s influence in getting a deal reached adding the lawsuit would not have led to the revitalization of Pimlico.
“The city then has a deteriorating sprawling capital intense facility in an industry it doesn’t understand, with an entity, the Preakness that still needs and has to have the kind of revitalized facilities to make it world class so that we can still be proud of it. Litigation doesn’t get you that,” Rifkin said.
Bill Cole, former President of the Baltimore Development Corporation, who helped negotiate the deal on behalf of the city, also praised the deal.
During an appearance Saturday on WBAL’s Peter Schmuck Show with guest host Torrey Snow, Cole said this deal will not only help the city but the entire thoroughbred horse racing industry.
“It is hard for me to describe the roller coaster ride I’ve been on for the last four months. I’m so incredibly relieved, and proud, that we were able to find a solution that preserves the Preakness at Pimlico and we did so without using any state general fund money.<” Cole said in a Facebook post.
“I’m hoping the General Assembly agrees that this solution is a win-win, particularly given the tremendous impact this will have on the Park Heights community. To everybody who told me that this would never happen: thanks for the extra motivation! This is a good day for Baltimore.”
Previously Stronach had only committed to running the Preakness at Pimlico through next year, leading to speculation that it would be moved to Laurel Park.
Under the deal, Pimlico would have a spring meet including the Preakness, while racing would continue year round at Laurel.
Baltimore City Council President Brandon Scott, who is running for Mayor praised the deal on Twitter today.
Baltimore County Democratic Delegate Patrick Young, the Deputy Majority Whip also praised the deal on Twitter.