City Senators Seek to Block Bill They Fear Could Erode State Support for Pimlico

    Baltimore City senators are making a last-ditch effort to solidify state support for Pimlico Race Course, which hosts the annual Preakness Stakes.

    In a letter sent Saturday to Budget & Taxation Chair Nancy J. King (D-Montgomery), the six city senators outlined their concerns with Senate Bill 883, a measure that would add the Bowie Race Course Training Center to the list of thoroughbred racing facilities eligible to receive Racetrack Facility Renewable Account funding generated by lottery proceeds. The lawmakers said they could not support the legislation “without transparent and genuine protections for the future of Pimlico Race Course and the property owned by The Stronach Group.”

    The missive is the latest in city officials’ attempts to boost Pimlico and the surrounding neighborhood and prevent The Stronach Group from moving the Preakness, the second leg of racing’s fabled Triple Crown, from Baltimore to Laurel Park. In their letter, the senators argue that SB 883 “lays the foundation” for Stronach to bolster Laurel Park and move the Preakness away from Pimlico.

    The senators said that if the legislation moves to the Senate floor they will attempt to add an amendment from Sen. Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) that seeks to extract a commitment from Stronach to offer a development plan in the event that Pimlico closes, because they believe the bill’s passage would result in the track closing. While the company has given written assurances that it wants the track to remain open, the senators said they wanted to transform those “from hollow words in a letter to a concrete assurance in law.”

    Baltimore City lawmakers are pushing legislation that would extend a workgroup under the aegis of the Maryland Stadium Authority to consider options for Pimlico and the surrounding neighborhood. The city is promoting a $424 million development plan to approve the track and bring additional private development to the Park Heights neighborhood.

    [email protected]

    Josh Kurtz
    Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.