If a buyer wants to raze Pimlico, can Maryland save the Preakness?
Hanah Cho reports this morning that shopping center magnate Carl Verstandig plans to bid on Pimlico and Laurel Park and wants to redevelop them into retail centers. His preference, he says, is to raze Pimlico, and he doesn't seem all that enamored of keeping Laurel running, either. Horse racing? He doesn't really care. And in the heresy of all heresies, he seems not all that concerned about what happens to the Preakness.
"There is enough interest in keeping the Preakness," he said. "There are plenty of locations they could use. They could run it in Timonium or any other location. I don't think it has to be specific to the Pimlico racetrack."
This has sparked some quick outrage.
“Any proposals that lead to Baltimore City losing the Preakness should be off the table,” City Council President Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake said in a statement this morning. “Prospective bidders for the track need to understand that any plan that would effectively take the Preakness away from Baltimore City will meet significant resistance from the Baltimore City Council.”
“The 134 year old Preakness Stakes is a tremendous asset for the City of Baltimore that has a global reach,” Rawlings-Blake said. “Great care must be taken to preserve that tradition by keeping the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore.”
It's a little unclear what the City Council could do to stop someone from moving the Preakness out of Baltimore, but it could certainly make any redevelopment plan for the site difficult through zoning and other means.
The state is also taking a stake in this, with Senate President Mike Miller saying the legislature, governor and attorney general's office are all fully engaged in keeping the race. A state law, which may or may not be worth the paper it's printed on, says Maryland has the right to buy the Preakness if anyone tries to move it out of state.
But if not at Pimlico, where? Timonium? Given how York Road backs up for your average Saturday gun and knife show at the Fair Grounds, the mind reels at the traffic jam Preakness would cause there. Laurel is an obvious spot, but not if it, too, becomes a big shopping center. Would this just renew the old debate over the state building a supertrack downtown?