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.
State and local lawmakers have said for years they do not want to see the Preakness leave Baltimore. Yet no one raised any alarms as Pimlico's owner was focusing most of its finances of turning Laurel Park into a "super track" that would host the third leg of the Triple Crown.
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."
The Preakness Stakes will remain at Pimlico Race Course at least through 2020 as the track’s owner seeks to ready a “super track” at Laurel Park that could host the iconic second leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown in the future.
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.
Ten weeks after a study recommended that the city, state and Pimlico Race Course owner negotiate over the track's uncertain future, the dialogue has become strained and elected officials now say they are battling to prevent the Preakness Stakes from ditching Baltimore.
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.