For more than 145 years, Baltimore has served as the home of Pimlico Race Course, the nation’s second-oldest racetrack, and the Preakness Stakes, the middle jewel of horseracing’s Triple Crown series. Every May, that beloved local tradition brings international attention and tens of millions of dollars to Charm City.
Last fall, a plan was reached between the city and The Stronach Group — which owns Pimlico and Laurel Park racetrack in Laurel, Md. — to keep the Preakness at Pimlico. Part of the proposed deal is a complete redevelopment of Pimlico.
The cost of the Pimlico project is $200 million, inclusive of the cost of infrastructure for the entire Pimlico site, all of which is derived from funds already dedicated by law to the racing industry and the city.
The cost of redeveloping Laurel Park is $175 million, also without the use of any new state funds.
The plan stipulates that The Stronach Group donate the area in and around the Pimlico track, as well as land around nearby Sinai Hospital, to the city for community development and other uses. In addition, the plans calls for the company to build a new clubhouse, and the track would be rotated 30 degrees to the northeast to create tracts of land to be sold for private development.
Meanwhile, the proposal calls for training and stable operations to be consolidated at Laurel Park. The purpose of the new facilities will be to host the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico and year-round racing and training at Laurel Park.
The plan — praised by city officials and Park Heights neighborhood activists — is now subject to approval by the Maryland General Assembly during its next session, which ends Apr. 6.
Alan M. Rifkin is managing partner of Rifkin Weiner Livingston LLC, attorney for the Maryland Jockey Club, owner of the Preakness and Pimlico, and represents them in a wide variety of commercial, regulatory and litigation matters. Rifkin says it is crucial for the General Assembly to approve the plan, of which he played a major role in developing.
“The Preakness plan has to be approved by the legislature for the authorization of the funding and construction plan,” he says. “That legislation will be introduced at the beginning of the legislative session, discussed and voted upon.
“Our challenge was two-fold: First, the City of Baltimore takes great pride in hosting the Preakness Stakes, one of the premier sporting events in the world,” he says. “But secondly, we have two aging race tracks within 30 miles of each other, each capable of doing the same thing. If we could reimagine the purposes of those tracks and reinvest wisely in them, then perhaps we could preserve the Preakness for the city and enhance the state’s historic racing industry. That was our challenge.
“The Preakness Stakes alone generates $50-$60 million in revenue annually in the Baltimore region, and it offers irreplaceable national and international recognition for the city and the state,” Rifkin says.
The following is a short video regarding the history and future of Pimlico, the Preakness Stakes and Maryland’s Racing industry released Feb. 21 by the Racing for the Future coalition (racingforthefuture.org/).