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Timonium grandstand gets facelift, thanks to slots

After starting the year with a better and brighter marquee sign on York Road and building a new maintenance shop on its premises, the next step for the fairgrounds in Timonium is a renovated grandstand.

The north and south walls of the second floor of the grandstand, which was built in 1957, are being replaced with more open, decorative walls. That project is slated to be complete by Aug. 1, in time for the start of the State Fair on Aug. 24, said Howard “Max” Mosner Jr., president and general manager of the Maryland State Fair and Agricultural Society Inc., which owns and operates the Timonium racetrack and state fair.

The longest wall of the grandstand — the west wall — will later be replaced with a colorful and decorative metal structure.

“It should add a little color and a little more friendliness, openness,” Mosner said. “We’re hoping it’ll just be more appealing for people to go in.”

The west wall’s renovation could begin as early as September, Mosner said.

Through the Racetrack Facility Renewal Account, which is funded by the state’s slots revenue, Timonium is eligible for $1.125 million toward improvements in fiscal 2012. Of that amount, $350,000 is for racing operations and the rest for capital projects such as the marquee sign and maintenance shop.

The Maryland Racing Commission on Tuesday approved $775,000 in RFRA reimbursement for the marquee sign and maintenance shop. In fiscal 2013, Timonium’s total will bump up to $1.25 million, with $350,000 still set aside for racing operations. The grandstand renovations will be part of fiscal 2013 reimbursements.

Renovations to the marquee sign cost about $190,000 and were completed at the end of 2011, Mosner said.

“That’s going to be one of the key elements in our marketing plans for racing and the state fair as well, because about [40,000] to 45,000 cars go by that sign every day,” Mosner said.

The new maintenance building cost about $673,000, he said.

Timonium received the occupancy permit for the building about two weeks ago and is consolidating its electrical, plumbing and general maintenance shops in the space, he said.

“Everybody’s got their own home now in the same building,” Mosner said.

The Maryland Racing Commission is also putting together a safety committee to address issues including medication and injury of horses and safety for both horses and riders, said J. Michael Hopkins, its executive director.

“The committee is going to take a proactive role and make changes and modifications where they think is appropriate, in addition to taking into consideration any national recommendations,” he said.