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Could The Preakness Leave Pimlico?

Could The Preakness Leave Pimlico?

25.05.2016, by Jim
Could The Preakness Leave Pimlico?&h=223&w=348&zc=1

Horse racing is a sport rich in tradition. But in the 21st century that tradition often comes headlong into cold, hard financial realities. That could be the case for Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course–the home of the Preakness Stakes. Pimlico is 146 years old and starting to show it’s age. There’s been talk of moving the Preakness to Maryland’s Laurel Park Race Track. Depending on who you talk to the move could be a temporary one while Pimlico is being renovated. Of course if the determination is made that renovating Pimlico will cost more than it’s worth there’s a chance that the Preakness could remain at Laurel permanently.

Sal Sinatra is the President of the Maryland Jockey Club. In 2014 he told a press conference that: “The talk of moving the Preakness to Laurel has quieted down.” Last year, he had to backtrack on that statement and admit that it is a possibility that the Preakness could move elsewhere. Now he explains that he and Tim Ritvo, chief operating officer of The Stronach Group, which owns Pimlico and Laurel Park may have been premature in their assessment: “That may have been mine and Tim’s fault last year because we hadn’t been here very long. On a day like this, you feel the energy, the tradition here. My preference is to keep the Preakness at Pimlico. I think Mr. Stronach is starting to feel the same way.”

Of course it wouldn’t be horse racing without some significant government meddling. Earlier this year state bureaucrats encouraged the Maryland Stadium Authority (yet another meddlesome and unnecessary state agency) which Orioles Park at Camden Yards and other sports and entertainment facilities in the state to conduct a study on what is needed at Pimlico and how much it will cost. And government being slow and inefficient, this study could take a year or a year and a half. A private sector consulting firm could do it in a matter of months.

Sinatra is anticipating a big project with a huge price tag: “I expect this facility will need a total rebuild. If that’s the case, we may need to run the Preakness at Laurel for a year.”

The ‘elephant in the room’ is the cost of the project and who will pay the freight. It could be one or more of the following groups: The Stronach Group, the state or the city of Baltimore. It’s unlikely that The Stronach group would take on the project without significant tax breaks and other financial inducements from the state. That means that no matter who has their name on the structure the taxpayers of Maryland will likely be left to carry the financial burden.

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