Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park, about 30 miles apart, have very different looks. Seven miles northwest of downtown Baltimore, Pimlico’s “Old Hilltop” track is steeped in nearly 149 years of history. But a recent study called it “antiquated,” and The Stronach Group — owner of both tracks — says Pimlico “has reached the end of its useful life as a major event venue” and that it lacks the space and infrastructure of Laurel.
Baltimore officials say The Stronach Group has slighted Pimlico by investing heavily in upgrading Laurel, which could one day host the prestigious Preakness Stakes and the Breeders’ Cup.
“We think from a business perspective you’d only invest in one place,” said Tim Ritvo, chief operating officer of The Stronach Group’s racing division.
Ritvo said the company is considering an $80 million renovation of Laurel, including “sky suites” and more new barns. Laurel already has four new barns along the backstretch, a more refined look than Pimlico and more amenities.
Here are some visual comparisons of the two tracks:
The Stronach Group says it would like to give Laurel an "elevated," family-friendly look. The restrooms are part of that.
“Women go to racetracks and it's embarrassing the way the restrooms are,” Ritvo said.
The company said it has “fixed up some bathrooms” at Pimlico, as well, but Ritvo singled out this women’s lounge at Laurel as an example of the direction that track is moving in.
While Pimlico’s grandstand is traditional — rows of seats facing the oval track — Laurel’s grandstand now includes “lounges” with couches, tables, flowers and chessboards. It’s part of the push for the track to be family-friendly.
The simulcast area
The Stronach Group said it has invested millions of dollars in recent years on Wi-Fi upgrades and flat-screen monitors in the simulcast areas of both tracks.
The simulcast rooms of Pimlico and Laurel — each with carrels and banks of monitors — are not radically different, although Pimlico’s has more of an institutional look.
Laurel is getting all-new, white barns with steeples. They allow ample light inside and an open-air feel.
Pimlico’s old barns — with brick on the outside and cinder block and wood inside — appear clean and functional, but are darker and smaller than the new barns at Laurel Park.
The sports room and video gaming room
Laurel has some amenities that Pimlico lacks. These include a space devoted to watching sports on large screens mounted on a wall. The track hopes this could one day become a sports betting parlor, if wagering on football, basketball and other sports is legalized in Maryland.
Laurel also has a video gaming room that regularly hosts tournaments.