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Bowie Race Track owners to present plans to Bowie City Council Monday

rpacella@capgaznews.com

The Bowie Race Track closed in 1985; in 2015, training at the facility ended. But when the track’s owner looks at the future of racing in the state, Bowie is a part of the picture again.

The Stronach Group will present its plans for that property, and for Laurel Park, to the Bowie City Council at its March 18 meeting, which begins at 8 p.m. at City Hall.

In February, Stronach Group Chief Operating Officer Tim Ritvo sent a letter to the state’s top lawmakers saying a super track at Laurel Park with a training center at Bowie is the best way forward for the horse racing industry.

That would include $80 million in improvements at Laurel Park and another $40 million at Bowie.

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His vision is horses training in Bowie and at Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, with races in Laurel, providing options for trainers coming from the north or the south. He said he wants Bowie to be a facility similar to Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida. That facility has a turf track, main track, jogging track, 40 barns with 36 stalls each, employee housing, sand rings and more.

Officials in Baltimore have been fighting for improvements to the Pimlico Race Course instead, and fighting to keep The Preakness, part of the Triple Crown, in Baltimore. A Maryland Stadium Authority study found that $424 million would be needed to demolish and rebuild the 149-year-old course.

Improvements to Bowie’s track aren’t contingent on the Preakness moving from Baltimore to Laurel, Ritvo said in an interview last month. He said the plans for a new Pimlico don’t include stabling, so a training center to the south would still be needed.

Residents have complained about the appearance of the track in the past, and Ritvo admitted in February that it needed work.

Legislation being considered this session could provide funding to make improvements at Laurel and Bowie possible.

The bill, HB 990/SB 883, would allow the Maryland Economic Development Corporation to get up to 80 percent of the money put aside from casino revenues to help the racing industry, the Racetrack Facility Renewal Fund.

The corporation could then issue bonds to Stronach to make improvements, and Stronach would be required to repay at least 50 percent, including debt service and repayment of principal, interest, and fees, according to the Department of Legislative Services. That bill also makes the Bowie Race Course eligible for Racetrack Renewal funds.

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