Among the smartest and savviest people in the Maryland General Assembly is Del. Sandy Rosenberg (D-41st), but I think he’s more optimist than realist when it comes to this sad business of Pimlico Race Course.
In his latest letter to constituents – of whom I am one – Rosenberg tells those of us who treasure the legacy of the Preakness Stakes not to give up hope.
“The Preakness is not moving,” he declares.
Rosenberg makes this statement partly by close reading of the study conducted by the Maryland Stadium Authority, and partly as municipal cheerleader, and he makes it because we’re within days of the 144th running of this second leg of thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown.
He makes this remark as Baltimore prepares for thousands of tourists, and millions of fresh tourism dollars, and a weekend’s rare carnival atmosphere in a city trying to cope with its latest barrage of problems.
So yeah, we definitely want to keep the Preakness – and all that it stands for – in Baltimore. It helps us feel big league. It reminds the whole country that this city’s more than its famous political payoffs and homicide counts.
It tells everybody we’re bigger than Laurel.
And yet, it’s down there in Laurel where the Stronach Group – owners of both Pimlico and Laurel racetracks – broke ground the other day on Laurel Park Station, a 63-acre mixed-use development expected to open in about a year.
The development will be adjacent to Laurel Park Racetrack, where the Stronach people wish to move the Preakness.
It will feature about a thousand new condos and townhouses, a sports park, commercial and office space, 22 acres of open space including walking and running trails, a kayak launch on the Patuxent River, a community garden and a MARC train station.
Pimlico Race Course is not adjacent to any such development.
Pimlico Race Course is adjacent to Park Heights Avenue.
What Pimlico has going for it is its treasured history. What Laurel has going for it is the future.
This gets us back to Del. Rosenberg’s new letter to his constituents, in which he writes, “The Pimlico Race Course property should be transformed by public and private investment into a major economic, health care, and recreational redevelopment project — where the Preakness is held every May.”
He’s echoing the Maryland Stadium Authority report. In fact, it was Rosenberg’s idea to have the study. His letter to constituents tells us he’s still in there fighting the good fight.
But even painting the best face on it, it still leaves Pimlico empty of actual racing almost an entire year – year after year – and the existing facility in need of what is generally believed to be about $400 million in renovations.
The Stronach Group is investing untold millions in Laurel. Does anyone anticipate them spending millions more on Pimlico?
A former Baltimore Sun columnist, Michael Olesker
is the author of six books. His most recent, “Front Stoops in the Fifties: Baltimore Legends Come of Age,” published by the Johns Hopkins University Press, is now in paperback.