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baltimoresun.com

Time is running out to save Md. horse racing

11:15 AM EST, February 27, 2013

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Maryland, and specifically the Baltimore region, has a long and storied history as a major player in horse racing. Thoroughbred owners, trainers and the horses live and work in our valleys, and every year the Preakness Stakes brings tens of thousands of people to Charm City.

As told in the Jan. 27 article "Next steps for MD. racing," the profitability of the sport has been in major decline over the last several decades. If the horse-racing industry is to be saved, it must learn from other sports and venues in order to reinvent itself as a 21st century form of entertainment.

Nearly 21 years ago, the Orioles moved from an old neighborhood stadium into a new best-in-class downtown ballpark, which helped them maximize profits by enhancing the fan and brand experience. Since then, cities all across the nation have followed the Orioles' lead by building sport venues downtown. Pimlico should do the same and build a world class race track downtown so that is easily accessible and adjacent to thriving businesses.

Further, in order to significantly increase attendance at the gate, the horse racing industry must migrate from a struggling daytime only sport, when most people with disposable income are working, into a vibrant nighttime entertainment option, as all other thriving sports have done. It should be noted that Churchill Downs in Kentucky held a "Downs After Dark" night race, which drew a crowd of 15,583 fans.

Currently, the horse racing industry in Maryland is not sustainable. If a bold and new approach is not put into place soon, this important local industry could end up being just a thing of our past.

Steven Rivelis

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