Study: Rebuild of Pimlico would cost at least $424 million

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: Dec. 13, 2018

The Maryland Stadium, in Phase 2 of its study into the feasibility of rebuilding Pimlico Race Course, said the cost for minimal capital improvements is now $424 million. The first phase of study said “renovations” only would cost a minimum of $250 million.

Phase 2 of the study, conducted by Crossroads Consulting Services along with Populous, Rummel Klepper Kahl and Turner Construction, sets the stage for “private development or another initiative” for parts of the Baltimore property not used for racing. The Stadium Authority collaborated with The Stronach Group and Maryland Jockey Club on a “Preakness Program,’ which offers specifics related to redevelopment of the racing facility.

“Pimlico Race Course is owned by the MJC and TSG,” the Stadium Authority said in a release. “Therefore, the non-racing land use concept study is a hypothetical, conceptual analysis of potential uses that could occur—not a feasibility study of what will occur.”

The study envisions total venue capacity of 75,000, with 30,400 “premium” seats and 44,600 general admission seats. It would have a four-level multi-use clubhouse that would accommodate 44% of the premium seating. It would have areas for off-track betting and sports betting.

All existing structures on the 110-acre property would be demolished including the two racing surfaces. The Phase 2 report indicates the surfaces would be moved and replaced with a 15/16-mile dirt track and seven-furlong turf course; the report states that “track geometry and distances were reviewed by the MJC, TSG and Maryland Racing Commission.”

The barn area would be demolished and not rebuilt. The MJC has said it is looking to reopen the Bowie Training Center to make up for lost stalls at Pimlico and perhaps construct a small grandstand to accommodate a short race meet. Training at Bowie ended in 2015, and the last race meet was held in 1985.

“When operating at Pimlico, the MJC prefers to utilize a haul-in model with the horses housed off site,” the report says. “This model requires temporary or permanent day stalls for up to 140 horses.”

The cost breakdown is as follows: demolition and site clearing ($21.5 million); infrastructure, utilities and site improvements ($120.5 million); racing surfaces and infield ($29.6 million); and the clubhouse ($252.2 million). The project would take three years, according to the report.

Should the project move forward, Turner Construction produced a timeline that suggests the final Preakness Stakes at the existing facility would be held in 2021. The Triple Crown race would then be held “off site”—presumably at Laurel Park—for 2022-23, and return to a new Pimlico in 2024.

The Maryland General Assembly is expected to take up the report during its 2019 session.

“A logical next step in the planning process is for key stakeholders including the MJC, TSG, state and city to agree to executive a formal agreement to enter into future negotiations,” the Stadium Authority said.

Comments included in a release indicated the report is designed to provide information so stakeholders can make informed decisions on the future of the Pimlico property. It did not make a recommendation nor did it propose funding mechanisms.

“The Stronach Group would like to thank the Maryland Stadium Authority for its thorough and extensive job of understanding and responding to the challenges of the aging Pimlico Race Course,” said TSG Chair and President Belinda Stronach said. “The final conclusions of the MSA report are in line with our assessment that in order to bring the facility up to par, it will require several hundreds of millions of dollars. The Stronach Group is investing heavily in racing and we are committed to the long-term sustainability of the Thoroughbred racing industry and to the communities in which we operate in Maryland.

“The MSA study began three years ago and from the outset we have expressed the need to address Pimlico, and by extension the Preakness Stakes, within the context of the broader racing ecosystem. A successful and viable future for Maryland racing requires an industry-encompassing and thoughtful capital plan that looks beyond one weekend of celebration to achieving great success year-round.

“We reiterate the need for action. We ask state and local leaders, working together with all segments of the racing industry, to tackle during the upcoming legislative session the important questions surrounding not only the financial requirements for a modern stadium that can host the Preakness Stakes but how to best support the needs of the Thoroughbred industry as a whole, sustainable year-round horse racing and training, an enhanced guest experience and greater fan engagement in Maryland.”

As for economic impact, a revitalized Pimlico and Preakness Stakes is estimated to produce $33.4 million in direct spending and $25.4 million in indirect spending, 620 jobs and total earnings of $24.2 million.

Pimlico report Phase 2, Part 1

Pimlico report Phase 2, Part 2