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Economic impact of Preakness Stakes in Baltimore would top $50 million annually, study says

The Preakness Stakes would generate $52.7 million in economic activity each year if the iconic horse race remained in Baltimore at a rebuilt Pimlico Race Course, according to a new study.

More than 90 percent of the activity — including visitor spending and purchases of goods and services to operate the race — is projected to occur in the city of Baltimore, said the study by the University of Baltimore's Jacob France Institute.

The Baltimore Development Corporation released the study Friday afternoon before the House Ways and Means Committee considered a pair of racing-related bills. The Baltimore Sun obtained an advance copy.

Baltimore is fighting to preserve the Preakness in the future at a rebuilt Pimlico track.

The Stronach Group, owner of Pimlico and the Preakness, said the nearly 149-year-old Pimlico is no longer suitable and that a renovated Laurel Park — about 30 miles away — would be a better alternative for Maryland and the racing industry.

The analysis released Friday was conducted for the BDC, whose president and chief executive officer, Bill Cole, said the results show why the Preakness is "irreplaceable" to Baltimore.

"There is no event of series of events we could possibly come up with that would have that type of impact," Cole said in an interview. "And not even calculated is the huge exposure from an international TV audience."

A Preakness at Laurel, Cole said, would shift hotel stays and restaurant outings "much further south, and much of this moves to inside the [Capital] Beltway in Washington, D.C."

The Stronach Group has said the Laurel property is larger and in better condition than Pimlico, and that it is in the best interests of the historic race to hold it there. Company spokespersons did not respond Friday to requests for comment on the study.

Previous studies have shown the Preakness — the second leg of racing's Triple Crown — with an economic impact of between $30 million and $40 million. Those studies have assumed Preakness attendance of more than 130,000, which is typical for the race.

But the University of Baltimore study made a different assumption. The Stronach Group has said it envisions smaller Preakness crowds in the future, but with more premium seating. The Maryland Stadium Authority incorporated that approach in a study of Pimlico last December, assuming a capacity of 75,000. The study released Friday used that figure as well.

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