Mayor Catherine E. Pugh sees potential in a state study that concluded it would take a $424 million overhaul of Pimlico Race Course to ensure the aging facility could continue to host the Preakness Stakes.
The second phase of the Maryland Stadium Authority’s review released Thursday morning said that Pimlico Race Course could be revitalized by demolishing the existing structure, rebuilding racing facilities, and re-orienting the track. It also advised developing surrounding property as a mixed-use project providing year-round activity.
“MSA’s proposal for Pimlico will help transform Park Heights, create thousands of jobs for residents, and will result in more than $800 million in public and private investments,” Pugh said in a statement Thursday morning. “We’re excited by the economic opportunity this redevelopment would jump start in an area that’s experienced decades of disinvestment.”
The next step, according to the Maryland Stadium Authority, in pursuing redevelopment involves the state of Maryland, Baltimore city and track owner Maryland Jockey Club, a subsidiary of The Stronach Group, approving a formal agreement to enter into negotiations.
Suggested improvements to the racing facility call for razing the grandstand, clubhouse, equestrian barns, track, infield, and associated infrastructure. The report recommends building a new, four-level high clubhouse fit for multiple uses. The new clubhouse, the report advocates, should include clubs/lounges, suites, and rooftop/balcony spaces.
It’s also proposed that the new clubhouse include areas for ticketing, dining, retail, off-track betting, and a museum. The new structure would hold 44 percent of the premium seats for the Preakness Stakes. The report also calls for construction of a new plaza a/k/a the “Palio.”
By keeping the Preakness at Pimlico the Maryland Stadium Authority believes it would preserved 620 full- and part-time jobs, as well as $5 million in taxes annually, with $2.7 million of those revenues going to city coffers.
The proposal for redeveloping non-racing property involves splitting those sites into four districts around the racing complex.
Those areas include a “Gateway District ” to the northeast portion of the property for hotel and parking garages. Uses in the northwest district would include residential and commercial mixed-use. There’s also potential for more parking garages, or equestrian/racing facilities.
A district to the southwest would be developed for neighborhood commercial uses, particularly a grocery store and additional retail. The final district to the southeast would feature residential projects with a mix of townhomes, senior housing and apartments.
The Stronach Group officials have floated the idea of moving the Preakness Stakes from the venue that first hosted the Preakness Stakes race in 1873. The race is the single biggest sporting event held in Baltimore, and has been compared by some to hosting the Super Bowl.
Previously, The Stronach Group officials cited Pimlico Race Course’s dilapidated condition, and concerns about the safety of neighborhoods surrounding the track as reasons to move the race. Laurel Park, which the Canada-based firm also owns, remains the most likely site to host the race if it’s moved from Pimlico. The company has invested millions of dollars in renovations at that facility, which is also closer to the lucrative Washington metro market.
State and local elected officials, along with leaders in the business community, have vowed to keep the race in northwest Baltimore. But that likely would require state and city governments to reach a deal with The Stronach Group to pay for improvements. Del. Samuel “Sandy” Rosenberg, who represents the area, said this spring that any deal would require substantial investment from the owner comparable to what the city’s baseball and football franchises contributed to their respective stadiums near downtown.
Concerns about the future of Pimlico Race Course date back at least two decades. A succession of owners deferred maintenance on the track, stable operations were moved, and the number of racing days dwindled to a handful annually.
As a result residents and elected officials worried the site will decline into what former state Sen. Lisa Gladden called “the world’s largest open-air drug market.”