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News Opinion

Pimlico should take a lesson from Camden Yards

The recent article ("Beyond the Preakness," April 9) outlining the current reality of the Pimlico race track and its future highlights the need for broader and bolder thinking in order to advance a sustainable solution to make horse racing in Baltimore a thriving industry once again.

As reported, the Jockey Club wants to attract better trainers and horses by investing 15 percent of projected earnings to renovate the stables. Yet this approach will do little to improve the fan experience. The grandstands are ugly, the restrooms are outdated, and the concession stands are far from appetizing.

To focus on the stables when the rest of the facility is in such disrepair that the fans are staying away is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. It is time for the owners of Pimlico take a page from the Orioles play book.

Nearly 21 years ago, the Orioles made a bold move. They relocated from an old and outdated neighborhood stadium to a new fan-focused downtown ballpark. At the time there was much discussion about holding on to the past by renovating Memorial Stadium. But Mayor William Donald Schaefer had a bold vision that incorporated the best of what was into a new best-in-class sports venue — Camden Yards.

With access to new capital, thanks to the legalization of slots and table games, Pimlico should now make a bold move. Build a world-class racing venue downtown, located near the soon-to-be-built casino, with all the amenities that a new generation of fans expect and deserve.

In addition, the new Pimlico should become a night racing venue. Its current daytime-only operation is not sustainable. Pimlico must embrace a business model that takes full advantage, as almost all other sports have done, of when those with disposable income are able to attend — during evenings and weekends.

By significantly improving the fan experience with a new downtown facility that has racing at night, Pimlico could truly move beyond Preakness as an economically viable entertainment mainstay for Baltimore.

Steven Rivelis, Baltimore

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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