Heading South down Route 83 toward Baltimore, you pass a sign for the Inner Harbor and Pimlico.
I don’t know how long it’s been there, but I know it’s not useful. People only need to find the aging race track one, maybe two days a year.
That tradition – running the Preakness at the track it has called home dating back to 1873, and consistently since 1909 – should probably end. I actually wrote a few years ago that I didn’t think the race would or should ever leave, and I’m here to say I was wrong.
A recent study pinned the price for a Pimlico renovation – which would be more of a rebuild – between $250 and $325 million.
While there’s another study underway examining ways to pay for the updates, the track owner, Stronach Group, has already said it does not plan to be the primary financier of this work. It also owns Laurel Park – located halfway between Baltimore and D.C. – where it has already spent $35 million, has plans to invest millions more and would prefer to run the race unless Pimlico is fixed. That leaves the city or state likely handling much of the bill for any Pimlico remake.
That, in 2017, is nearly impossible. Baltimore is facing a $130 million deficit just in its school budget. The police force appears to be overextended and underfunded. The city has already committed to spending more than a billion dollars to fix the sewer system. It also gave Under Armour founder Kevin Plank $660 million in tax incremental funding, one of the largest such deals in the country, so that he can build a new headquarters. The Orioles’ 30-year lease on Camden Yards ends in 2021, and the club will almost certainly request the city and state handle some of the cost for upgrades needed to keep the facility current.
The list goes on and on. The idea of spending taxpayer money on a sporting event – even one with the history of Preakness – would be unpalatable to so many in Maryland.
Yes, Preakness generates more than $2 million in state and local taxes, and visitors spend millions…