Legislation to Pay for Rebuild of Pimlico, Laurel Clears Another Hurdle

Wednesday, March 18, Via TDN:

Laurel Park

The Racing and Community Development Act of 2020, which authorizes $375 million to pay for the rebuilding of Pimlico and the refurbishing of Laurel, was passed Wednesday by the Maryland General Assembly, reports the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association.

The bill will now go to Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, who is expected to sign it. If signed by Hogan, the Act will go into effect June 1. It has sailed through both Maryland houses. The House passed the conference committee version of the bill by a vote of 113-14 a short while after the Senate voted 44-1 to approve it.

Under the legislation, the Maryland Stadium Authority will issue up to $375 million in bonds to pay for the project.

“I would like to thank Maryland’s policy makers for the passage of the legislation that paves the ay for an enhanced Preakness in Baltimore, the revitalization of year round racing at Laurel Park and reinvestment in the many communities of interest near and related to the racing industry,” The Stronach Group chairman and president Belinda Stronach said. “Their tireless efforts, particularly as they work to prioritize the health and well-being of Maryland’s citizens during these difficult times, is highly commendable.”

The Racing and Community Development Act of 2020 came about after a tug of war between state and Baltimore City politicians regarding the fate of the Preakness. The Stronach Group, the owners of Pimlico and Laurel, had made it clear that they wanted the Preakness to leave Pimlico and Baltimore and be run at Laurel. The back-and-forth included a lawsuit filed by the City of Baltimore to keep the race at Pimlico. That lawsuit has been dropped.

The two sides eventually came together and worked on a compromise, which was the beginnings of the legislation. Under the plan, Pimlico will be completely rebuilt with a new grandstand replacing the current one, which, all agree, is no longer fit to hold a Triple Crown event. Much of Pimlico’s property will also be rebuilt to accommodate a community center, playing fields and new housing. Laurel will also undergo a major facelift.

“The passage of the Racing and Community Development Act of 2020 is a defining moment for the thoroughbred horse racing industry in this State,” said Alan M. Rifkin, counsel to the Maryland Jockey Club and the Preakness Stakes and the Firm’s managing partner.

It is significant that lawmakers were able to get the bill passed Wednesday as it was the final day of a legislative session that has been cut short due to the coronavirus.

According to the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, the refurbishing of Laurel will be the first priority and that the timeline for the rebuilding of Pimlico has yet to be determined.

On a busy day for Maryland politicians, lawmakers also passed a stripped-down version of a sports betting bill. The bill calls for voters to decide on the fate of sports betting in the November election. The new bill does not specify which companies would be allowed to conduct sports betting. An earlier version of the bill listed most racetracks, all casinos and four non-casino off-track betting facilities as eligible for sports betting licenses. Legislation to Pay for Rebuild of Pimlico, Laurel Clears Another Hurdle

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