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Maryland Bill Would Authorize $400M For Pimlico Overhaul, Training Facility

With less than a month left in the Maryland General Assembly's annual session, lawmakers will consider a bill providing $400M in public financing for the redevelopment of Pimlico Race Course and building a training facility for the state's horse racing industry.  

If approved, the bill would permit the Maryland Stadium Authority to finance the planning and design of a new Pimlico Race Course in northwest Baltimore. The bill by and large resembles the deal announced in January that requires the property owner, The Stronach Group, to transfer ownership of the track to the state. 

The bill has yet to be filed, but it was previewed Thursday by Maryland Thoroughbred Racetrack Operating Authority Chair Greg Cross.

Maryland's Pimlico Race Course, home of the Preakness Stakes.

"We know the state is eager to see the long overdue improvements to Pimlico and investments in the Park Heights community come to fruition, and the governor looks forward to working with the General Assembly to finalize this deal and pass the authorizing legislation to make it a reality," Cross said in a statement.

As part of the legislation, the Maryland Racing Commission would transfer day-to-day thoroughbred racing operations to a state-created nonprofit and create a licensing agreement for running the Preakness Stakes. Under the pact, Stronach Group subsidiary Maryland Jockey Club would retain ownership of the Preakness Stakes.  

However, lawmakers face a tight timeline to pass the bill before the last day of the session on April 8. To avoid going through the Rules Committee, which reviews legislation submitted after the deadline, the House of Delegates or the Senate must pass legislation by March 18.  

As proposed, the legislation would increase the Maryland Stadium Authority's debt capacity to support the project to $400M. The Maryland Racing and Community Development Act of 2020 caps the authority's debt for the projects at $375M. 

Of that $400M, the Maryland Thoroughbred Racetrack Operating Authority must dedicate $250M to upgrades at Pimlico and $110M for a new training facility.

To repay the debt, the comptroller must deposit at least $17M annually from the state lottery fund into the Racing and Community Development Financing Fund. 

Under the act, The Stronach Group would transfer ownership of the Bowie Race Course and Training Center to the city of Bowie. The bill also dedicates $200K of state lottery money, starting in fiscal year 2025, to employ Prince George's County Inc. for workforce development and small, minority and women–owned business development.  

The bill also stipulates that the Maryland Thoroughbred Racetrack Operating Authority and the state's Department of Housing and Community Development should develop a joint plan to invest in workforce housing development in areas around Pimlico.  

Plans to revamp Pimlico Race Course have remained integral to a broader effort to revitalize the Park Heights neighborhood surrounding the track. City and state leaders have long contended that new investment in the track will spur renewal in the disinvested neighborhood. 

As part of that plan, the Maryland Stadium Authority has called for the development of a mixed-use district around Pimlico to coincide with the overhaul of the racecourse. In 2018, the state proposed a plan that included more than 1M SF of commercial, residential, hospitality and medical space.