Reaction from Baltimore residents about a new Maryland Stadium Authority study that calls for demolishing Pimlico Race Course and rebuilding it at a cost of $424 million, according to a summary of the study’s findings obtained by The Baltimore Sun.
‘Demolition and removal of all existing structures’
Pimlico, the second-oldest racetrack in the nation, opened five years after the end of the Civil War, and its age shows — from leaky roofing to far too few toilets. The study called it “antiquated and in need of substantial renovations or complete redevelopment.”
The study suggests the latter, a full-scale demolition and rebuilding “of all existing structures on the site, including the tracks, infield, grandstand, clubhouse, equestrian barns and associated infrastructure.”
It considered two other, less costly options that would keep and upgrade the existing structures, but the study concluded that a full rebuild “was deemed the land-use scenario that best serves as the long-term home of the Preakness Stakes, as well as the catalyst for nonracing investment on the site and the greater community.”
After demolition, the study calls for the construction of a four-level, 150,000-square-foot clubhouse and plaza area called the Palio, which would contain roughly 40 percent of Pimlico’s premium seating, including track-view dining, clubs, lounges, suites, rooftop and balcony spaces.
Residents and business owners say they’re largely optimistic about a $424 million proposal to overhaul Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. The plan suggested by the Maryland Stadium Authority could revive the dilapidated horseracing track, add amenities to the neighborhood and create jobs.
Named after the famous Palio di Siena horse races in Italy, the clubhouse also would contain administrative offices, a racing museum, a café, offtrack betting, and required service and support areas. Its design would allow Pimlico to host outdoor concerts, other performing arts, festivals and markets during the rest of the year, the study says.
The study suggests building the Palio on the site of the current temporary saddling paddock and paddock stalls. It also proposes rebuilding roadways and on- and offsite utilities, vehicle and pedestrian tunnels and pedestrian bridges at track crossings.
Realigned track makes room for stores, hotel, other amenities
A key proposal is the realignment of the dirt and turf tracks and infield, which the study says would “accommodate/encourage potential private development,” including a supermarket, a hotel, townhouses, shops, an expanded LifeBridge Health medical campus and other amenities.
(The $424 million cost estimate, it should be noted, does not include any of the potential development beyond demolishing and rebuilding the clubhouse and tracks.)
A new 15/16-mile dirt track and 7/8-mile turf track would be aligned parallel to West Belvedere Avenue, the study says, “the only possible solution that will allow 360-degree public connectivity and development around the track, which will be more compatible with the community and neighboring land uses.”
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“It is envisioned that the plazas could be surrounded by a mix of public and private property investments such as mixed-use commercial, residential, community resource center, an innovation campus, and other elements which would help to draw the community together and maximize economic value of the redevelopment,” it says.
How long would it take?
Construction is estimated to take approximately three years, the report says.
That means the second jewel of horse racing’s Triple Crown would likely need to move temporarily to Laurel Park Racetrack — a move The Stronach Group of Canada, which owns both racetracks, has been considering for years.