A multi-party agreement dependent on legislative change has been reached to keep the Preakness, middle jewel of American racing's Triple Crown, at Pimlico racecourse in Baltimore for at least 30 years. The deal, which relies on an extension of the Racetrack Facilities Renewal Account funded by casino revenue, would lead to a new grandstand at both Pimlico and Laurel Park – racetracks owned by The Stronach Group – a 30-degree rotation of the racing oval at Pimlico to facilitate private development, new stabling for 1,500 horses and dormitories at Laurel, and the addition of a synthetic track at Laurel to be installed alongside the current dirt and turf surfaces. The former Bowie racetrack, which had been considered by The Stronach Group as a year-round training center, would be sold or donated to the city of Bowie, Md.
The agreement was reported by the Baltimore Sun, which was briefed by the individuals who crafted it: Alan Rifkin, an attorney representing The Stronach Group and previously counsel and key aide to former Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer; William H. Cole, representing the City of Baltimore; and Alan Foreman, attorney and head of the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association.
To fund the proposed $353-million transformations, the deal calls for the Maryland Stadium Authority to issue 30-year bonds in the amount of $348 million. The Maryland Stadium Authority, which similarly funded Camden Yards for Major League Baseball's Baltimore Orioles and M&T Bank Stadium for the NFL's Ravens, had conducted studies on how to rebuild Pimlico.
For the funding to work, the General Assembly would have to extend the Racetrack Facilities Renewal Account, which currently funds purses and matching funds for capital improvements but are phased out beginning in 2026 and expire in 2032. Casino companies may oppose the extension, the Sun reports.
If the casino funding is extended, the bonds would be paid back $17 million annually, with The Stronach Group assuming the bulk of the payments, horsemen contributing $5 million, and the City of Baltimore paying $3.5 million.
A total of $199 million would be allocated for demolition of the current Pimlico structures and construction of a new grandstand and ship-in barns, with $174 million earmarked for Laurel's various projects.
All of the Pimlico property would be donated to the City of Baltimore, with The Stronach Group's Maryland Jockey Club signing a 30-year lease to operate a spring meeting to include the Preakness. A significant portion of the property would be available for development. The new grandstand would be available for year-round use for community events. Similarly, under the plan, ship-in barns could be used for events like farmer's market year-round. The proposal also calls for community use of athletic fields to be built in the track's infield, which formerly has been used for a Preakness Day InfieldFest concert, whose would have to be “reimagined,” according to Rifkin.
The Sun reports a three- to four-year timeline for completion but said the Preakness would go on as scheduled during construction.
Negotiations among the various parties have taken place over four months and followed a lawsuit – since dropped – by the City of Baltimore against The Stronach Group, which previously said it would not commit to holding the Preakness at Pimlico beyond 2020.
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