McDonough: Save the Preakness, but don't put another dime into Pimlico

There is a dark cloud hanging over Pimlico Race Track and the Preakness Stakes. The odds of the track and Preakness leaving Baltimore are growing every day.  Political leadership is the only remedy that can solve the problem. Gov. Larry Hogan has finally started to stir, Mayor Catherine Pugh is concerned, House Speaker Michael E. Bush wants to negotiate, and the legislators are roaming endlessly around the infield. Before the Mayflower moving van starts turning on its engines, someone better advance an idea or solution. 

As a state legislator, I believe it would be inappropriate to drop one taxpayer dollar into a rehabilitation of the current Pimlico race track at its present location ("City officials push to keep Preakness in Baltimore — and at Pimlico," May 19). Track owner Frank Stronach and his organization appear to have the same viewpoint. The budget crunchers are speculating about a $400 million or $500 million investment. I do not believe any bank, investment group or bonding package would support that kind of financial outlay to renovate a lost cause. With a structural budget deficit and educational needs, state taxpayers are in no position to contribute their hard earned dollars to rebuilding Pimlico.

We need a bold solution. The Inner Harbor, Harbor East, Camden Yards and many other projects were bold and successful. I propose the creation of a Super Track which is the combination of a horse racing facility, theaters, restaurants, a hotel and maybe even a new Baltimore arena. This complex would be a united package attractive to investments because of its guaranteed success. The race track segment would be saved for eternity because the combined revenues would underwrite and sustain the it. This entertainment complex and tourist attraction would boost Baltimore's image to a new level. The new Super Track could be used for other events and would probably become the most advanced, state-of-the-art venue in the horse racing industry and in the entire nation.  The Super Track, because it is bold, exciting and financially viable, would attract private investment.

The political leadership and private sector must come together immediately to find land and propose an idea.  My idea is a suggestion; it may not be perfect. At least, it is an attempt to take action before it is too late.

The nagging question is, what do we do with the current Pimlico site? The answer is simple — create jobs.  Transform the grounds into a job enterprise zone that will provide job training and work opportunities. Utilizing federal, state, and city funding, plus private commitment before the shovel hits the dirt, will inspire the community to be encouraged about future economic growth. In the long view, jobs are more important to the area. It is time to cease the hand-wringing and build a solution. Build it, they will come, horse racing and the Preakness will survive!

Del. Pat McDonough, Annapolis

The writer, a Republican, represents Baltimore and Harford counties in the House of Delegates.

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