In a move that could determine whether Pimlico Race Course, after 141 years, remains the permanent home for the Preakness Stakes, the Maryland Stadium Authority is commencing a study of the fabled, but faded, North Baltimore track.
The stadium authority this week approved a request from the Maryland Racing Commission to manage a $280,000 study that will evaluate Pimlico’s ability to serve as the permanent home of the Preakness and guide state officials on how much to support plans to renovate or rebuild the facility.
The year-long study will take up long-running doubts about Pimlico’s suitability as the venue for the Preakness Stakes, the second leg in the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred racing and Maryland’s largest single day sporting event.
Meanwhile, a second effort to improve Baltimore’s Park Heights area moved ahead this week when the city issued a request for proposals from developers interested in creating a mixed use community on a 49-acre city owned parcel along Reisterstown Road, just south of Pimlico Race Course.
May 27 is the deadline for proposals. The city has been relocating families and tearing down buildings to prepare the land for redevelopment. Officials say they want to create a mixed use, mixed-income community consistent with the Park Heights Master Plan, created in 2006.
Political Leaders Laud Study
The mayor’s representative on the stadium authority applauded the Pimlico study during the Board’s meeting on Tuesday.
“I think that this is timely and I think that this overdue – especially with all the redevelopment we are doing in Park Heights,” said the Kaliope Parthemos, chief of staff for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
Elected officials who represent the area and want to see the Preakness stay at Pimlico were also enthusiastic.
“The owners have said for some time that they no longer want to just kick the can down the road,” said State Delegate Samuel “Sandy” Rosenberg, (D-41st). “They want to make a decision about the future of Pimlico.”
City Council member Rochelle “Rikki” Spector, whose 5th District includes the track, said she was encouraged that the city and the state are working with the owners of the track.
“It speaks volumes about the possibility of bringing Pimlico into the 21st century,” she said “I’m putting my two dollars on it.”
The evaluation will be led by the stadium authority’s on call economic consultant, Crossroads Consulting Services.
Crossroads will be working with Populous, the successor firm to HOK Sport, which designed Oriole Park and M & T Bank Stadium. Populous employs a Director of Equestrian Services, Todd Gralla, who designed the thoroughbred facilities for the London Olympics and will be working on the Pimlico study.
The study has been broken into two phases. The $175,000 first phase involves an assessment of Pimlico and an analysis of the improvements required for it to continue to serve as the long-term home of the Preakness. It’s expected to be complete in the spring of 2017.
The $105,000 second phase will take the information from Phase 1 and identify potential redevelopment options and ways to finance them. Options likely would include tearing down the existing grandstand and replacing it with a state of the art facility.