Preakness plan highlights: Key elements of agreement to keep race in Baltimore

Below are several key elements of the plan proposed by representatives for the City of Baltimore, The Stronach Group and the thoroughbred industry to redevelop Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park.

The Preakness would stay in Baltimore.

At the top of Baltimore’s priority list was keeping the Preakness, the second leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown. A state law mandates that the race can be removed from the city only as a result of a disaster or emergency. But fear of losing the race had many on edge, given the decrepit state of the 149-year-old track.


Under the deal, Stronach would donate the Pimlico property to Baltimore City or a city-created entity, and some outlying parts of the property could be sold off for development.

Stronach and the Maryland Jockey Club would lease Pimlico property to run a spring meet that would include the Preakness. It’s too soon to say how many days of racing the Preakness meet would include, officials said.


The deal would be for a 30-year lease for the Preakness meet, with extensions that would keep the race here indefinitely, they said.

But the Pimlico track wouldn’t stay the same.

The racetrack itself would be tilted clockwise by about 30 degrees. That would put the oval in a more optimal position to separate off outlying parcels.

A new clubhouse could be used for non-racing activities the rest of the year. Temporary seating would be brought in to accommodate Preakness crowds, which officials said might be smaller than in recent years.

You might say goodbye to the InfieldFest.

A major attraction of Preakness in recent years hasn’t involved horse racing at all. The InfieldFest has attracted younger partygoers who flock to see bands and DJs.

The renderings from Stronach show additional seating and tents inside the Pimlico oval, but it’s not clear whether there would be room or the desire for a giant concert. Officials say they’re rethinking when the best time would be to throw a big concert — maybe not on race day.

Expect more than horse racing.

Outside of the month or so around the Preakness, the Pimlico property could be used for many other activities, officials said.

Stronach’s drawings show athletic fields filling the inside of the track oval. The plan’s creators envision tournaments, community festivals and other events throughout the year.

Laurel Park would get a makeover, too.

Laurel Park in Anne Arundel County would retain its status as the home of year-round thoroughbred horseracing.


Barns with stalls for more than 1,500 horses would be built across the property, some on the current backstretch and some along Route 198. There also would be a new clubhouse built around a new paddock, so fans could see horses being saddled up for races.

The Bowie Training Center would close for good.

The shuttered Bowie Training Center would no longer be used for training horses. Stronach is exploring donating the property to nearby Bowie State University and/or the City of Bowie.

There are a lot of steps before this could happen.

Architects of the plan estimate these upgrades would cost $375.5 million. Getting there requires significant changes in state law.

The Maryland Stadium Authority would issue $348 million in bonds to help pay for the work, which Stronach would pay back over 30 years using a combination of money.

The repayment of the bonds would cost $17 million a year. First, $8.5 million would come from the state’s Racetrack Facilities Renewal Account. That fund gets its money from a portion of casinos’ slot machine revenue.

But those payments are made by casinos for only the first 16 years that they’re in operation, so the money would start to dry up in 2026 and be gone entirely in 2032. State law would need to be changed to extend the Racetrack Facilities Renewal Account to cover the 30-year repayment period.

A plan agreed upon by representatives of Pimlico’s owner, the city, and the state’s thoroughbred industry to rebuild the century-and-a-half-old race course would rotate the track 30 degrees to open up parcels for private development. Within the venue itself, a combination clubhouse and event center would be the only permanent building. Other spaces could likewise be flexed between racing and community uses. Where the day stables are during meets, for example, could become sheds for a market.

It could face opposition.

The proposed funding mechanism for the tracks could cause concern with casino owners or lawmakers who don’t want to tamper with the original formula Maryland created when casinos were first authorized. This also comes at a time when the state is facing a projected $900 million deficit, as well as a need to spend billions more on public education, following the recommendations of the so-called Kirwan Commission.

An additional $5 million in annual bond repayments would come from a state account that funds racing purses, which the state’s horsemen have agreed to use for the redevelopment plans instead.

Baltimore City would contribute $3.5 million annually toward the bond repayments from money it gets from a share of slot machine proceeds.

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The remaining $27.5 million for the upgrades would come from money in the Racetrack Facilities Renewal Account.

This deal is different from others circulated earlier this year.

At least two other proposals for Pimlico were floated earlier this year and failed.

Baltimore City officials and horse owner Anthony Manganaro circulated a plan that had some similarities to this one, but with a much higher price: $545 million.


That so-called “Triple Crown Plan” would have relied on an extension of the Racetrack Facilities Renewal Account and also a tax-increment financing arrangement. A Stronach executive flatly called the plan a “non-starter.”

State Sen. Bill Ferguson attempted to engineer a plan that would have allowed Stronach to use the Racetrack Facilities Renewal Fund money to pay back bonds that would have been used to renovate Laurel Park and the Bowie Training Account.

In order for Stronach to get the money for the bonds, the company would have been required to show progress on redeveloping Pimlico.

Ferguson said at the time he believed his measure would keep the Preakness in Baltimore, but others were not convinced. Baltimore’s state delegates blocked his plan in the final days of the General Assembly session, on the grounds that it would not guarantee the race would stay in the city.