Preakness Deal Ends Long Feud Between Baltimore, Stronachs
The city of Baltimore and The Stronach Group have come up with a way to "keep the prestigious Preakness Stakes" at Pimlico Race Course in a deal that "could end vexing problems that have lingered for decades over funding for improvements, sports fans' changing tastes, and tensions between local leaders, neighbors and the operators of the track," according to Baker & Wood of the BALTIMORE SUN. The Stronach Group has "pledged to donate" the land on which Pimlico sits to the city of Baltimore or an "entity created by the city for development in and around the track." Pimlico's "antiquated grandstand and clubhouse would be demolished." A new clubhouse "would be built and the track rotated 30 degrees to the northeast to create nine parcels of land that could be sold for private development." In all, Pimlico would receive $199.5M "as part of the project." The deal would "require multiple changes to state law by the General Assembly" in '20, the "assumption of new responsibilities by the Maryland Stadium Authority, as well as the possible creation of an organization to own and run the site." The estimated timetable "calls for construction to be completed in three to four years after its approved by the legislature" (BALTIMORE SUN, 10/6). In Baltimore, Holden Wilen noted the deal also includes "upgrading Laurel Park to enable year-round racing." Laurel will be upgraded for $173.4M, including a "new clubhouse, paddock and barns to house 1,500 horses." A Tapeta-brand synthetic track "would also be installed alongside the existing dirt and turf tracks" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 10/6).
TIME TO PARTY: In Baltimore, Jean Marbella noted the deal "would turn the track into more of a year-round events facility." The infield "could be used as multi-purpose athletic fields," while farmers and flea markets "could set up shop when newly constructed stables were not housing racehorses" (BALTIMORE SUN, 10/6). Baltimore-based attorney Alan Rifkin, who represented Stronach during the negotiations, said, "We need to recognize that the Preakness is an event -- it's a festival, it's a special and unique series of events, and not just the Preakness race itself. The thought is to expand its potential, by expanding the event through festivals and connected and related promotions." He added, "Reimagining the Preakness as a festival that is more than a weekend, a week or a meet is really important to make the economics of all of this work for everybody" (BALTIMORE SUN, 10/7).
INSIDE THE DEAL: In Baltimore, Luke Broadwater noted Mayor Bernard Young and Stronach Group President Belinda Stronach met on Preakness Day in May and "agreed to a rapprochement." Eventually, the city "withdrew its lawsuit, and the parties appointed a three-person negotiating team" -- Rifkin representing the Stronachs, former Baltimore Development Corp. CEO William H. Cole IV representing the city, and Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association CEO Alan Foreman representing Maryland's horse owners and trainers. A "major turning point came when Stronach authorized Rifkin to agree to donate Pimlico and all its land to the city at no cost" (BALTIMORE SUN, 10/6). Also in Baltimore, Pamela Wood wrote under the header, "Key Elements Of Agreement To Keep Race In Baltimore" (BALTIMORE SUN, 10/6). The SUN's Peter Schmuck wrote the "prospect of a new facility at Pimlico and a new era for racing in Maryland is almost too good to be true" (BALTIMORE SUN, 10/6).