Over $300 million in bonds proposed to fix Pimlico racetrack

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A Maryland bill would funnel almost $350 million of bond proceeds to Pimlico Race Course, known for thoroughbred horse racing and hosting the second leg of the Triple Crown, and associated racetracks.

The bill, the Racing and Community Development Act of 2020, will be co-introduced this week by House Speaker Adrienne Jones, D-Baltimore County, and state Sen. Guy Guzzone, D-Howard County, according to local news sites.
A plan was widely circulated late last year proposing $200 million in capital projects for a new racing surface at Pimlico and a clubhouse and community center, among other things. It is not clear if a bill would be similar to the proposal.

Pimlico is home to the Preakness Stakes, the second and shortest race of the Triple Crown, sandwiched between the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes. The Preakness Stakes is one of the largest events in Maryland, with an estimated impact of $50 million a year, according to the proposed plan.

“All in all, in order to preserve and enhance the Preakness Stakes and Maryland’s important horse racing industries, those venues need to be modernized,” the plan said.

The plan proposed moving training and stable operations to Laurel Park, improving both Pimlico and Laurel tracks and transferring ownership of Pimlico to the city of Baltimore. The tracks are currently owned by The Stronach Group, an entertainment and real estate company.

The bonds would be issued by the Maryland Stadium Authority.

The Maryland Jockey Club would use and operate Pimlico during Preakness events, but not for year-round horse training, while Baltimore would use it for the rest of the year.

Pimlico’s accompanying Laurel Park would need a $175 million capital overhaul for new barns and stables as well as a new racing surface.

When Laurel race track goes under construction, operations will be moved to Bowie Race Track, owned by The Stronach Group.

As legislators introduce the bill, Bowie city officials say they want Bowie Race Track to be considered to come under ownership of the city in partnership with Bowie State University, said Adrian Boafo, Bowie council member.

“We want to have the land because our residents’ fear is that someone else will have the land and use it for residential development,” Boafo said.

Now, with legislation approaching, Boafo believes they can get support from the state to get the land for the city.

Some have been concerned that the Preakness Stakes could not be held at Pimlico after The Stronach Group said they were committed to holding the event there only through 2020.

In October, The Stronach Group pledged to donate Pimlico's land to the city or an entity created by the city, according to The Baltimore Sun.

During the 2019 General Assembly, the Stronach Group sought bond funding to create a super track at Laurel, which did not go through.

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