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Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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Forgotten No More As Pimlico Finally Could Gain Much-Needed Upgrades

  • Maryland legislators are considering $400 million in bond funding for the home of the Preakness Stakes.
  • The developing effort adds to a historic wave of sports change in the Baltimore-Washington region.
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The often-overlooked middle leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown is poised to see a significant facility upgrade, one that will both bring it closer to parity with the sport’s other two marquee races, and also add to a historic sports-related transformation unfolding across the Baltimore-Washington region.

Maryland’s legislature, which has less than a month remaining in its current session, is now considering a $400 million bond measure that would rebuild Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course, a 153-year-old facility that hosts the Preakness Stakes each year but has fallen into disrepair. The latest plan, advancing upon both a prior effort detailed in January and a separate blueprint from 2020, would see the Stronach Group transfer ownership of the racetrack to a newly created state-led nonprofit organization.

The measure in part represents a catch-up move for the Preakness Stakes and Pimlico following other work already finished or underway for the sites of the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes. Louisville’s Churchill Downs is completing a $200 million capital improvement in time for the 150th running of the Kentucky Derby in May, while Belmont Park is getting a $455 million makeover that will relocate the 2024 Belmont Stakes to Saratoga Race Course and potentially the 2025 race as well.

In addition to upgrades to the racetrack itself, other components include a hotel and event center, parking garage, and a new training facility. 

“Every 10 years, the legislature tried to solve the problem, and every 10 years, they kicked the can down the road with Band-Aids,” said Greg Cross, chair of the Maryland Thoroughbred Racetrack Operating Authority. “This is the first time we’re actually doing something new.”

Capital Change

The Pimlico renovations now under consideration add to arguably the most change-filled eight months in the Mid-Atlantic pro sports history. Just since last July, both the Commanders and Orioles have been sold, efforts advanced to build a new venue on the RFK Stadium site, funding was approved to renovate Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Wizards and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis has attempted and initially failed in his attempt to build a $2 billion arena in Alexandria., Va., and the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network is entering a new era with regard to both distribution on dominant cable carrier Comcast and rights fees paid to the Orioles and Nationals. 

If the Pimlico funding effort is successful, the Preakness Stakes would relocate in 2026 to nearby Laurel Park before returning to Baltimore the following year.

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