Connect with RWL

Baltimore Sun – Schmuck: All hail the deal that just might keep the Preakness in Baltimore forever

October 5, 2019 News

Baltimore Sun

With this new plan, Preakness will likely remain in Baltimore forever; here are some key takeaways from the plan.

The deal that has been struck to keep the Preakness in Baltimore in perpetuity still has a few furlongs to go before it crosses the finish line, but the prospect of a new facility at Pimlico and a new era for racing in Maryland is almost too good to be true.

Imagine going to a sparkling new clubhouse and actually having the restrooms in full operation … or the electricity remaining uninterrupted in every corner of the racetrack on Preakness weekend. No ugly plywood patches on the outer façade. No reason for NBC Sports to carefully calibrate the national broadcast to hide all the other warts that have turned the building into a civic embarrassment.

“This is an historic and transformative plan. And the funding lives entirely within funds already earmarked by law to the horse industry and the city,” said attorney Alan Rifkin, who represented the Maryland Jockey Club in the negotiations. “It addresses and, hopefully, solves for, preserving the Preakness at Pimlico for generations to come and stabilizes and enhances the horse racing industry throughout the state.”

I guess this is where somebody is bound to say “Hold your horses!”

The agreement that was struck between the city and The Stronach Group to rebuild and redevelop Pimlico is a complicated one that will require quick legislation in Annapolis and cooperation from all the stakeholders. So there are going to be hurdles and there are likely to be disagreements and perhaps even some local opposition.

Can’t imagine who would object to a plan that would rejuvenate a disheveled area of the city with a new multipurpose, publicly operated entity that would include significant nonracing redevelopment, but you never know.

The plan would channel racing-targeted casino revenue into both Pimlico and Laurel Park to transform the entire horse racing tableau in Maryland, turn the old Bowie track and training facility over to the city of Bowie for redevelopment, and end a long period of uncertainty that sparked fears of the Preakness moving not just out of Baltimore but out of Maryland entirely.

No one with an emotional stake in the Baltimore area wanted to see that, especially at a time when the city is dealing with an array of serious problems that have damaged its national reputation, discouraged tourism, and threatened the area’s ability to attract new business.

The Preakness really is Baltimore’s Super Bowl. It is the event that puts the city on a national stage for one shining Saturday and reminds everyone of Baltimore’s rich sporting heritage, which dates to the 19th century and features iconic figures such as Babe Ruth, Johnny Unitas, Brooks Robinson, and Cal Ripken Jr.

We all know this is where Seabiscuit and War Admiral engaged in their famous match race in 1938, momentarily diverting the nation’s attention from a looming war in Europe and the final throes of the Great Depression.

Pimlico is also where all of horse racing’s Triple Crown winners moved to the brink of the sport’s greatest prize. And now there is a very good chance that we’ll get to see the next Triple Crown winner pass through town, and others to follow.

So, premature or not, congratulations and thanks are due to all of the people who fought to keep the Preakness in Baltimore and the group that spent the last four months negotiating the agreement that could bring an end to years of rancor and uncertainty.

Now it’s up to the state legislature and the Maryland Stadium Authority to put them in the winner’s circle.