Amid all of the pageantry and excitement of the Preakness last weekend there was a reality that was likely out of sight and out of mind for most in attendance. The Pimlico Race Course–home of the Preakness–is dilapidated and in need of repairs. While no one is putting shovels in the ground just yet once the process gets underway it could cause the Preakness to relocate to Laurel Park Race Track. The ‘working plan’ is for this to be a temporary move but a permanent move is not completely out of the question.
Maryland Jockey Club President Sal Sinatra and Tim Ritvo, chief operating officer of The Stronach Group, which owns Pimlico and Laurel Park have had to deal with the back and forth that has existed on this issue for several years. Last year they made it sound as if a move–perhaps permanent–was imminent. Now they’re backtracking: “That may have been mine and Tim’s fault last year because we hadn’t been here very long. On a day like this, you feel the energy, the tradition here. My preference is to keep the Preakness at Pimlico. I think Mr. Stronach is starting to feel the same way.”
Unfortunately, Pimlico is in Maryland which like most of the states in the Northeastern United States has a corrupt, meddlesome and basically incompetent government providing ‘oversight’ of the facility. In fact, they have two governments to deal with–the state of Maryland and the city of Baltimore. Earlier this year state bureaucrats enlisted the Maryland Stadium Authority to conduct a study on what renovations are needed at Pimlico and get an estimate of how much it will cost. This study could take a year or more. Sinatra expects a big project at big price: “I expect this facility will need a total rebuild. If that’s the case, we may need to run the Preakness at Laurel for a year.”
And someone will have to pay for it. The most likely suspects are The Stronach Group, the state or the city of Baltimore. The Stronach Group would probably try to strong arm some tax breaks and other financial concessions out of the city or state government.