Maryland Governor Signs Bill To Rebuild Pimlico

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As expected, Maryland Governor Wes Moore signed a bill Thursday that calls for Pimlico to be rebuilt and for the track to be donated to the state.

Under the law, $400 million in state bonds will be used to tear down and rebuild the dilapidated grandstand. While Pimlico is being rebuilt, racing will move to Laurel. Once the new Pimlico is up and running, Laurel will be closed for racing.

Because of the eventual closing of Laurel, there will be a need to open a training center since Pimlico alone cannot accommodate all the horses based in Maryland. The site of that training center has yet to be determined.

“This is an historic moment for Maryland racing and it wouldn't have been possible without the support of the governor, the leadership of the Maryland legislature and the cooperation of all the stakeholders and the work of the Maryland Thoroughbred Racetrack Operating Authority. It's an historic moment for Maryland racing and for the city of Baltimore,” said Alan Foreman, the general counsel for the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association.

The Stronach Group, which owns Pimlico and Laurel, will turn the tracks over to a newly formed nonprofit group that will resemble the structure in New York, where the tracks are operated by the New York Racing Association. The Stronach Group had wanted out of Maryland because it has been losing money running the two tracks.

Foreman outlined the future plans for Pimlico and the timelines that involve such matters as moving the GI Preakness S. to Laurel:  “Pimlico will be transferred to the state of Maryland on July 1,” he said. “Pimlico will close for training sometime before the early fall. The Stadium Authority has already begun work and a design team is in place. They have put out the request bids for the construction firm that will do the actual construction work. Demolition work at Pimlico should begin, if not the end of this year, early next year. The bonds will be issued sometime in early 2025.

“The location for the training center has to be decided between now and the end of the year. I expect that will happen within the next 90 days because the construction of the training center needs to begin at the same time that Pimlico goes under construction. Racing will be conducted at Laurel for the next three years while construction takes place. The not-for-profit entity is currently being formed and a management team will be hired. It is anticipated that by Preakness 2025, which will be at Pimlico, the old grandstand will have been demolished and the old barn area will have been demolished. Full construction at Pimlico will continue after Preakness 2025. It is anticipated that the Preakness will be conducted at the new Pimlico in 2027. The Stadium Authority made it clear that they expect to deliver the project within three years from Jan. 1, 2025. Finally, the not-for-profit entity that will conduct Maryland racing will be put in place on Jan. 1, 2025.”

Foreman said that “The Stronach Group will conduct the 2025 and 2026 runnings of the Preakness and it will be operated similar to the Breeders' Cup arrangement where they go into a racetrack, operate the event and then come back out again. Beginning in 2027, the Preakness will be controlled by and operated by the new not-for-profit entity under the auspices of the Maryland Thoroughbred Racetrack Operating Authority.”

The 2025 Preakness will be run at Pimlico despite the fact that the construction will have already begun. It will be run at Laurel in 2026 before returning to Pimlico in 2027.

“Running the Preakness next year at Pimlico will be a bit of a challenge, but it's the 150th Preakness and the governor and the city very much want it held at Pimlico, regardless of what is going on,” Foreman said.

Pimlico, which opened in 1870, is the nation's second-oldest racetrack behind Saratoga. But the facility had become so rundown over the years that its continuing to operate without millions being spent on upgrades as a racetrack was a problem. In 2019, nearly 7,000 grandstands seats were closed off, with The Stronach Group stressing that move was made for the “safety and security of all guests and employees.”

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