As Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore hosts the Preakness Stakes on Saturday, state government officials won’t be hobnobbing and wooing businesses at a taxpayer-funded luxury tent as they have in the past.
Typically, the state government pays for a corporate tent in the infield, where politicians and cabinet secretaries mingle with corporate executives who are doing — or are considering doing — business in Maryland.
With coronavirus concerns persisting, as well as a smaller overall audience for public health reasons, Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration decided to nix the state tent this year.
“Given the protocols and months of advanced planning that usually goes into it, a state tent was not feasible this year,” said Hogan spokesman Mike Ricci.
Despite the lack of a state tent, Hogan will still be glad-handing at the track. He once again is headlining a fundraiser for the Republican Governors Association.
Hogan also plans to continue the tradition of awarding the Woodlawn Vase to the winner of the Preakness Stakes, the second jewel in thoroughbred horseracing’s Triple Crown.
The 2020 Preakness — held last October, after being postponed from May — featured no corporate tents, no infield party and a spectator list limited strictly to those associated with the participating jockeys, trainers, breeders and owners.
This year, instead of white tents lined up in the infield near the first turn, the corporate parties will be at the home stretch area, according to race organizers. There will be 13 such “Home Stretch Pavilions,” each with contactless wagering and dedicated bartenders and servers.
Corporate guests will follow the same health protocols as other fans, including undergoing temperature scans, wearing masks, observing physical distancing and being encouraged to frequently sanitize their hands.
At the last full-fledged Preakness in 2019, Maryland taxpayers footed an approximately $145,500 bill for the state tent. The Republican governor’s office invited about 100 people and contributed $75,500 of its funds, or about $755 per guest, toward the total cost. The Department of Commerce kicked in $50,000 and the Department of Transportation contributed $20,000.
The governor’s guest list in 2019 included cabinet secretaries and other top administration officials, as well as a handful of state lawmakers and other politicians. The Department of Commerce invited executives from companies with a presence in Maryland, ranging from the Dietz and Watson meat company to pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. The Department of Transportation’s guests included officials from companies that do business at the Port of Baltimore and Baltimore Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport.
A flyer for the Republican Governors Association event on Saturday lists tickets that start at $10,000 for two people, going up to a “platinum sponsor” package for $100,000, which includes four tickets to a VIP brunch and eight tickets to the race and the RGA tent.
RGA officials did not respond to questions about the fundraiser.