City vacates lawsuit; Pimlico talks will resume

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: June 13, 2019

The Stronach Group, which owns and operates the Maryland Jockey Club racetracks, on June 12 said a lawsuit filed against the MJC by the City of Baltimore in regard to Pimlico Race Course has been withdrawn, and negotiations on the future of the home of the Preakness Stakes can now resume.

The suit, filed by former Mayor Catherine Pugh in March, called for the city to take over Pimlico through condemnation. It stemmed from the city’s contention that the home of the Preakness Stakes has been neglected at the expense of tens of millions of dollars in improvements at Laurel Park.

Pugh resigned in early May and was replaced by City Council President Bernard C, “Jack” Young, who will serve the remainder of her term.

“Acting on behalf of the City of Baltimore, (Young) today filed a line of withdrawal dismissing without prejudice the condemnation action filed against the Maryland Jockey Club, The Stronach Group and others in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City,” TSG said in a statement. “Following a productive discussion between Mayor Young and Belinda Stronach, Chairman and President of The Stronach Group, on Preakness Day, the parties have discussed the resumption of good-faith negotiations concerning the ways and means by which to revitalize, renovate and/or redevelop Pimlico and other Thoroughbred racing facilities in the state, with Pimlico as a priority, in order to maintain and enhance the state’s Thoroughbred racing industry, the city’s capacity to host the Preakness Stakes, provide for sustainable year-round racing in the state, and to further economic and community development and the public’s interest at large.”

The statement appears to an indicate a willingness to explore all options that could result in the renovation or rebuilding of Pimlico. Previously, TSG had said it intended to move the Preakness to Laurel

“I am pleased that we have reached this withdrawal agreement and standstill with the Maryland Jockey Club and The Stronach Group to give the parties an opportunity to discuss Pimlico and racing in Maryland,” Young said. “The city is committed to keeping the Preakness in Baltimore and I look forward to working with the Maryland Jockey Club and The Stronach Group on good-faith negotiations toward a positive outcome for the Park Heights community and the City of Baltimore.”

“We appreciate the withdrawal of the lawsuit and look forward to working with Mayor Young and his representatives, along with the state and other stakeholders,” Belinda Stronach said.

“In the coming days, we will be continuing our dialogue with the City Solicitor’s Office to arrange for these important discussions,” said Alan M. Rifkin, attorney for the MJC and Preakness Stakes.

Uncertainty about the future of Pimlico resulted in the Maryland General Assembly taking no action during its 2019 session on legislation that would have allowed Racetrack Facility Renewal Account funds—generated by a percentage of video lottery terminal revenue at casinos—to be used to float bonds for construction projects at Laurel and the Bowie Training Center.

(Pimlico photo by Tom LaMarra)