Authority calls for $424 million rebuild of Pimlico racecourse

Maryland Stadium Authority's completed study on the future of Pimlico racecourse, expected to be released in full later on Thursday, will lay out a plan that includes the demolition and rebuilding of the Baltimore racetrack at a price tag of $424 million.

Demolition of the track, according to an undated news release on the MSA website, would include "all existing structures on the site."

The rebuilt track would feature a dirt course of 15/16ths of a mile (Pimlico's main track is currently one mile), and the turf course would stay at seven-eighths of a mile.

The release said the track's realignment was necessary to accommodate potential non-racing land use around the perimeter of the site.

It added that changes had been reviewed and approved by the Maryland Jockey Club/The Stronach Group and the Maryland Racing Commission.

Of the $424m, $252.2m would go to a multi-use clubhouse, $120.5m on infrastructure, utilities and site improvements, $29.6m would be put into the tracks and infield, and demolition would cost $21.5m. The release said construction for the project would be estimated to take three years to complete.

The changes proposed for Pimlico would call for four "districts" on the property, which is owned by The Stronach Group. The "districts" identified could include an area with a hotel, another for residential and commercial mixed use, which may include additional equestrian/racing facilities, civic improvements and structured parking, a section for neighbourhood commercial use that could include a grocery store or other retail businesses, and a mixed residential area.

The news release did not indicate where the funding would come from for the Pimlico renovation, but said "a logical next step in the planning process is for key stakeholders, including (The Stronach Group), the state, and the city to agree to execute a formal agreement to enter into future negotiations".

The first half of the MSA report on Pimlico, released in 2017, estimated the cost of renovating the track at between $250-322m.

"The Stronach Group would like to thank the Maryland Stadium Authority for its thorough and extensive job of understanding and responding to the challenges of the ageing Pimlico racecourse," Belinda Stronach, chairman and president of The Stronach Group, said in a statement.

"The final conclusions of the MSA report are in line with our assessment that in order to bring the facility up to par it will require several hundreds of millions of dollars.

"The Stronach Group is investing heavily in racing, and we are committed to the long-term sustainability of the thoroughbred racing industry and to the communities in which we operate in Maryland.

"The MSA study began three years ago and from the outset we have expressed the need to address Pimlico and, by extension, the Preakness Stakes, within the context of the broader racing ecosystem.

"A successful and viable future for Maryland racing requires an industry-encompassing and thoughtful capital plan that looks beyond one weekend of celebration to achieving great success year-round.

"We reiterate the need for action. We ask state and local leaders, working together with all segments of the racing industry, to tackle during the upcoming legislative session the important questions surrounding not only the financial requirements for a modern stadium that can host the Preakness Stakes, but how to best support the needs of the thoroughbred industry, sustainable year-round horseracing and training, an enhanced guest experience, and greater fan engagement in Maryland."

On May 19, the day of the 2018 Preakness Stakes, Tim Ritvo, the chief operating officer of The Stronach Group (which owns Maryland Thoroughbred tracks Pimlico and Laurel Park), said the only thing that would keep Pimlico in business was if the second leg of the Triple Crown remained there.

He emphasised, however, that The Stronach Group would not put any money into renovating Pimlico. He said Laurel could be ready to host the Preakness as soon as 2020.

"We've made it pretty clear that we're not going to put any funds into it," Ritvo said in May. "We don't have any funds to put into it. We're a privately owned company that has no debt and we're in good shape. But at the same time, we're not going to pour millions and millions of dollars – hundreds of millions of dollars – into the facility here and continue to renovate Laurel."

During that same discussion, Ritvo said he would rather have the Preakness at Laurel than Pimlico.

"That's a hard question to answer," the executive said. "From what I know now, yes, I'd like it to be at Laurel . . .  but if somebody was to spend $300-$500 million on a facility here, I'd probably start to like this place too."

Ritvo and MJC president Sal Sinatra did not respond to requests for comment by BloodHorse on Wednesday.