Baltimore lawmakers hope to get Pimlico's owners to talk about redevelopment

Baltimore’s lawmakers are hoping to draw the reluctant owners of Pimlico Race Course into discussions about redeveloping the aging horse racing track.

Del. Samuel I. “Sandy” Rosenberg, a Baltimore Democrat whose district includes the track, is among the sponsors of legislation that would require city and state officials and track owners to meet and come up with a plan to move forward on an ambitious redevelopment proposal drawn up by the Maryland Stadium Authority.

The stadium authority proposal envisions a multi-use development at Pimlico, including the race track but also other entertainment options, shops and homes, at a cost of more than $400 million. The proposal aims to improve the facility in order to keep the famous Preakness Stakes horse race at Pimlico and spur additional development in the area.

The work group would be charged with studying the feasibility of the stadium authority’s plans and how to pay for it. A report would be due by December.

Stronach Group, the Canadian company that owns the track, has been reluctant to invest in Pimlico, focusing instead on expanding and improving Laurel Park, a track in Anne Arundel County it also owns.

Tim Ritvo, Stronach’s chief operating officer, said Friday that his company wouldn’t oppose Rosenberg’s bill.

“We’re willing to listen,” Ritvo said.

But Ritvo made it clear that the only way his company would move forward with redeveloping Pimlico would be if the state or the city came up with a way to pay for it. He said while talks about Pimlico drag on, the company has been unable to move forward with its plans to overhaul Laurel Park.

Asked if Stronach Group was willing to put any of its own money into Pimlico, Ritvo said: “Probably not, no. Stronach Group has been pretty upfront the whole time that it didn’t make business sense for us to invest. But we’re still open to listening.”

Rosenberg said it’s not surprising that Stronach is bullish on Laurel.

“It was their pro-Laurel comments and their anti-Pimlico comments that got us working on the issue,” Rosenberg said.

Stronach Group is asking state lawmakers to help with its plans for overhauling Laurel Park and its training center in Bowie.

Ritvo talked with Anne Arundel County lawmakers Friday morning about a new liquor license for Laurel Park that would allow alcohol to be served daily until 2 a.m., instead of the current permitted serving time of two hours before until two hours after live or simulcast racing. The proposed license also would open the door for other restaurants or brewpubs to locate on the site as concessionaires.

Another bill being promoted by Stronach Group would allow some of the proceeds from slot machines that go into the Racetrack Facility Renewal Account — which pays for track upgrades — to be used to issue bonds to raise money for projects

Instead of having money go to the tracks on a year-by-year basis, the bonds issued by the Maryland Economic Development Corp. would raise a larger pool of money up front to pay for projects.

Ritvo told Anne Arundel lawmakers that his company envisions boosting Laurel Park to the point that it could attract a marquee race like the Breeder’s Cup.

“Laurel is our preferred location for year-round racing,” he said.

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