Groups announce agreement on path forward for Laurel, Pimlico projects

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: Oct. 5, 2019

A negotiating team has reached an agreement in principle regarding a funding plan for the redevelopment and enhancement of Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park.

In an Oct. 4 letter to Gov. Larry Hogan, Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller and House Speaker Adrienne Jones, the negotiators and Baltimore Mayor Bernard “Jack” Young, The Stronach Group Chairman and President Belinda Stronach, Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman and Baltimore County Executive John Oleszewski outlined the plan and requested legislative support.

The negotiators are Alan Foreman, general counsel for the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association; Alan Rifkin, counsel from the Maryland Jockey Club; and William Cole, who represented the city of Baltimore. The talks began in late spring.

“In an effort to resolve these difficult matters, the undersigned came together with a new-found spirit of cooperation and purpose to explore possible ways and means to preserve the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico, to support year-round sustainable racing at Laurel Park and to facilitate community development in and around the racing facilities,” the letter states.

The complete plan, which is estimated to cost about $372 million, includes a rebuild of Pimlico, including a new clubhouse and reconfigured racing surfaces to accommodate development along the perimeter of the property; new barns and a synthetic surface at Laurel; possible temporary use of the Maryland State Fair at Timonium for stabling and training; and continued discussions regarding future uses of the Bowie Training Center property, according to the letter.

“The Preakness is an important part of Baltimore—not just for our city’s history and national stature but also an economic development engine,” Miller and Jones said in a joint statement. “We are pleased that the parties have come together to negotiate a win-win for the racing industry and the communities of Baltimore that ensures the Preakness will remain in Baltimore City and that we have sustainable racing at Laurel Park year-round in Maryland.

“We look forward to working with Gov. Hogan to move this project forward for the good of the city and the state of Maryland.”

A release from the mayor’s office said the plan for Pimlico includes a new state-of-the-art clubhouse and community events center, both of which would be available for community use when not being used for the Preakness Stakes or other race meets at the Baltimore facility. TSG said it has agreed to contribute the entire site to the city or an entity established by the city to allow for community development in and around the racetrack and the Sinai Hospital area.

The plan envisions multi-purpose and community uses for the clubhouse, racing facilities and infield, including for athletic and recreational purposes.

Laurel would get a new state-of-the-art clubhouse and upgraded racing and training facilities, including the addition for racing and training of an all-weather Tapeta surface and new stables and training facilities in a “horsemen’s village setting” that will be designed in consultation with the Maryland racing industry.

“This is an historic moment,” Young said. “The Preakness Stakes is an important part of the city’s legacy and future. We submitted a Ietter on behalf of the city, The Stronach Group, the Maryland horsemen and County Executives Pittman and Olszewski to our leaders in Annapolis, which we hope they will find to be as thoughtful, significant and important as do we. By these recommendations, if approved, we can preserve the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico for generations to come and move forward with our redevelopment plans for the Park Heights community, Sinai Hospital and the Northern Parkway corridor.”

“I am delighted by what I have seen in these plans” Pittman said. “They are not only thoughtful, but visionary. If these plans are approved, I am confident that Laurel Park will become the model for racing and training facilities in the country.”

“I’m honored to have been involved in this project, and I thank the mayor and Belinda for their vision and commitment to Maryland racing,” Foreman said. “If approved, and I hope it will be, this plan will establish Maryland as the epicenter of Thoroughbred racing in the United States and enhance Maryland’s growing breeding industry.”

“This is a first step, but an important one,” Rifkin said. “We believe we have presented for consideration a truly transformative plan for racing and the many stakeholders and communities of interest who are connected to racing and these facilities, and we’ve done so within existing sources of funds already available to the industry and the city.”

According to the Baltimore Sun, the funding plan would entail a legislative extension of the Racetrack Facility Renewal Account, which receives 1% of casino slot machine revenue. In addition, the Maryland Stadium Authority, which authorized the study on the redevelopment of Pimlico to accommodate the Preakness, would be involved in the process, the newspaper reported.

The funding mechanism is similar to one proposed earlier this year for Laurel and the Bowie Training Center that would have used RFRA funds as the basis for more lucrative bonds to fund the projects.

In light of the announcement that a negotiating team has reached an agreement in principle regarding the plan, the Maryland THA is hosting a forum Oct. 8 to the discuss details and ramifications. The question-and-answer session will begin at 1 p.m. EDT in the Conference Center adjacent the Carriage Room in the Laurel grandstand.

(Pimlico Race Course photo by Tom LaMarra)