David Cordish, CEO and chairman of The Cordish Cos., says Pimlico Race Course is perfectly situated to be transformed into a year-round entertainment venue capable of continuing to host the Preakness Stakes.
Redeveloping the track to ensure it continues as host of the Preakness Stakes would appeal to “anybody,” Cordish said on Wednesday at a ceremony marking the opening of the inn portion of Live Hotel & Casino.
“Pimlico is perfectly situated to have festivals, to have music venues … you’re right on Northern Parkway, you’re near some great neighborhoods. Whether it’s (Cordish Cos.) is not important,” said Cordish, who grew up in the Mount Washington neighborhood near the track. “Pimlico, it’s a shame, there’s no other word for it, the way they’ve let that go, and it could be fabulous.”
Cordish Cos. has been a prominent developer of entertainment venues in urban areas near sports venues. Its projects include the Fox Sports Midwest Live in the St. Louis Ballpark Village around the Cardinals’ Busch Stadium; a proposed $2.5 billion mixed-use development in partnership with Iguana Investments and the Jacksonville Jaguars surrounding the NFL franchise’s stadium; and the $250 million Texas Live mixed-use project between the Texas Rangers’ Globe Life Park and the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium.
In 2009, Cordish placed unsuccessful bids to buy Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park.
Pimlico Race Course is slated to host the Preakness Stakes, the second jewel in horse racing’s Triple Crown, next year. But the dilapidated state of the track has raised concerns about the viability of hosting the race there in the future. Raising concerns about the race leaving Baltimore have become almost as much a race tradition as drinking Black-Eyed Susans.
The track is owned by Canada-based Stronach Group, which has invested millions of dollars upgrading its track in Laurel. Recent comments from company executives about the future of the race at Pimlico have increased worries the Preakness Stakes could be moved from Baltimore.
Both city and state elected officials, as well as business leaders, have vowed to keep the race in northwest Baltimore. A study by the Maryland Stadium Authority estimated that redeveloping Pimlico to the level needed to keep the stakes in place would cost between $248 million and $321 million.
Any overhaul of the track is expected to require a public-private partnership. Del. Samuel “Sandy” Rosenberg, who represents the area around the track in the General Assembly, said he believes the state and city are on board to contribute to overhauling the track.
“I would expect that in next year’s General Assembly we would move forward with renovating the track,” Rosenberg said at an event at the track last month.
But Rosenberg said any redevelopment would require the track’s owner to make an investment in the project comparable to what the Orioles and Ravens chipped in for Oriole Park at Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium, respectively. It’s yet to be seen if the current owner is willing to make that level of investment in Old Hill Top.