Landmark plan to preserve Preakness Stakes in Baltimore will become law without governor’s signature
Baltimore Sun | May 07, 2020
A $389 million deal to rebuild the historic — but dilapidated — Pimlico Race Course and keep the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore will become law without Gov. Larry Hogan’s signature.
The plan had sailed through the state House and Senate earlier this year. But it was not certain until Thursday whether it would survive or be vetoed by Hogan, who expressed reservations about approving new spending because of the economic turmoil created by the COVID-19 health crisis
Preliminary architectural design and civil engineering will begin immediately.
“We are confident that the near shovel-ready capital works projects included in the ‘Racing and Community Redevelopment Act’ will be a critical part of Maryland’s financial recovery, jobs creation and community and economic development,” said Alan Rifkin, counsel for the Maryland Jockey Club and Preakness Stakes.
The legislation addressed “vexing issues that had long challenged the industry,” Rifkin said, allowing “for the bright future and optimism of the Preakness at Pimlico for generations to come” as well as year-round racing at Laurel Park, about 30 miles away.
Under the plan, the Preakness — Maryland’s largest and splashiest sporting event — will remain at Pimlico even during construction.
The jockey club, which oversees the track, has yet to announce concrete plans for a postponed running of this year’s Preakness. The race and its associated events could not be held as usual this month because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Last October, the city of Baltimore and the owners of the nearly 150-year-old race Pimlico track came up with a way to keep the second leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown in the city.
The agreement was the political equivalent of a longshot. During the 2019 General Assembly session, The Stronach Group — owner of Pimlico and the Laurel — had unsuccessfully sought bond funding to begin creating a so-called “supertrack” at Laurel, a project that could have sidelined Pimlico.
The October deal instead preserved both tracks — a victory for Baltimore — but required General Assembly approval. Laurel is also to receive a new clubhouse and and many other upgrades.
The plan’s advocates, including Baltimore representatives, Stronach and the state’s thoroughbred industry, argued that the plan would not only preserve the Preakness at its longtime home, but would do so by tapping into existing funds for racing rather than new expenditures.
Agreements must still be entered among the Maryland Stadium Authority and the parties. The authority will oversee the project.