As Pimlico study moves step closer to proceeding, McDonough looks to build track in Baltimore County

A Maryland Stadium Authority study on the future of Pimlico Race Course moved one step closer to continuing when the Maryland Racing Commission voted Thursday to approve state funding of the analysis.

The Stadium Authority released the first part of the study — which said a renovation of the dilapidated track would cost between $250 million and $300 million — last February. But the more comprehensive second phase has been delayed for nearly a year as state and city leaders have debated the scope, purpose and funding of the study.

The second phase is expected to include analysis of the neighborhood surrounding the track and of possible nonracing uses for the facility. It would also weigh the benefits of a renovation versus the complete rebuild called for by the Maryland Jockey Club, which owns and operates the track.

Baltimore City, the Baltimore Development Corporation and the Jockey Club have already agreed to pay for portions of the $426,000 study.

After the racing commission vote Thursday, the study must still be approved by the stadium authority’s board and by the house and senate budget chairs in the General Assembly. If all sign off, it could proceed in the late winter or early spring.

State, city and Jockey Club officials hope the analysis will be complete by the end of the year so Pimlico’s future can be discussed during the 2019 General Assembly session. If state and city leaders cannot agree on a plan to rehabilitate the track, it’s possible the Jockey Club could push to move the Preakness to Laurel Park.

Meanwhile in Annapolis, state Del. Pat McDonough announced he’s submitted legislation to create a public-private commission that would research building a new track in Baltimore County.

McDonough, a Republican who’s running for Baltimore County executive, said there’s little chance the legislature will fund a costly rehabilitation of Pimlico. He sees a state-of-the-art track in Baltimore County, which he’d want combined with a new sports and entertainment arena, as a possible solution to keep the Preakness in the Baltimore region.

“This is a major sporting event,” he said. “Losing it would be like losing a professional team.”

He said state leaders have been too passive, waiting for the stadium authority to study Pimlico’s future even as the possibility of a Preakness in Laurel becomes more realistic.

“I’m trying to stimulate debate on the subject,” he said. “When politicians sit on their butts, bad things happen.”

McDonough said he’d like to create the commission — which would include the county executive, county council members, state legislators and private business leaders — even if his legislation does not pass. He added that Baltimore County has plenty of open spaces to accommodate his proposed sports complex, which he said should be privately funded.

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