As Pimlico Plans Improvements, Idea of Downtown Racetrack Fades

| April 11, 2013 | 2 Comments

As long as I’ve been old enough to take any interest in the Preakness, I’ve heard of rumors of the desire and efforts of politicians and area leaders to move the Pimlico Race Course to downtown. While an interesting idea, especially with the enormous success of Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium in their downtown settings, it always seemed pretty far from realistic.

In order for a downtown race track to be a possibility, millions of square foot of industrial space would have to be torn down in the Camden Carroll Industrial Area. Companies such as STX, Berg Corporation, Waste Management, MTA, Housewerks and Second Chance would be forced to relocate their companies and employees.

Here is an idea of how the track might have to be situated by Baltimore InnerSpace. While the area does not have the shine of a Harbor East or Central Business District, it is certainly a very successful economic area for Baltimore.

All of these properties would have to be purchased and that would be expensive. For an idea of the value many of them have, Second Chance just purchased their new 160,000 square foot warehouse for $6.5 million.  Industrial property near ports are also expected to rise in value with the nearing completion of the Panama Canal expansion.  And, the Port of Baltimore makes Baltimore one of the most Panamax-ready cities on the East Coast.

Not only would millions and millions of dollars of property need to be purchased, but the CSX train track may have to be moved under ground or re-routed. An extensive environmental cleanup would also be needed for a facility that would be the future home and site for hundreds of thoroughbreds. Then the price to build an actual racetrack that can hold upwards of 120,000 people would have to be taken into account.

The Maryland Jockey Club, owners of Pimlico and Laurel Park, spoke recently to the Baltimore Sun about extensive renovations planned for Pimlico now and in the future.   From the article:

One day, owners also hope a renovated or rebuilt grandstand could compete with venues such as Camden Yards and downtown bars for young, affluent Baltimoreans seeking a hip place to spend an evening.

The Jockey Club expects to receive a total of more than $100 million over 16 years in matching funds from slots revenue set aside for racetrack improvements. The club has told the state it plans to spend $15.5 million on new barns and living quarters for track workers at Pimlico.

With the focus now on rejuvenating northwest Baltimore’s Pimlico, it is clear that a downtown racetrack will likely not be brought up again any time soon.

Pimlico and the Park Heights area are clearly two of the biggest winners in Maryland gambling.  Though the casinos were originally thought to be located at the race tracks, the Maryland Jockey Club never made a bid, but it was written in Maryland Law that both the area and track would receive impact funds. Now with Baltimore’s new Horseshoe Casino under construction in South Baltimore, across the street from Camden Carroll, as well as well as three other state casinos already up and running with Rocky Gap coming soon, the Pimlico area will be a huge beneficiary of impact funds without actually taking on the infrastructure or traffic a casino brings.

South Baltimore is expected to receive impact funds by year 2015 and it is projected those funds could bring in up to $20 million per year to the area by 2017. It is projected at that time that the Pimlico area will get $10 million per year by 2017. The area has already received impact funds form the revenue of the Perryville and Ocean Downs casinos.

With approximately $10 million per year coming to the Pimlico/Park Heights area for improvements, as well as more than $100 million in funds from slots revenue for race track improvements, it is clear that it is time to make Pimlico and the surrounding area a strong asset to Baltimore instead of a crumbling attraction that’s future has been in limbo for many years and hasn’t seen a major investment since the 1980s.

This gives Baltimore the opportunity to make two areas stronger: the Maryland Jockey Club is now committed to improvements at Pimlico, as well as adding events to attract a younger crowd, and the surrounding area will receive millions of dollars to help improve the area.  Camden Carroll Industrial Park can be relieved of the looming rumors that a racetrack would one day come in and move many businesses which could lead to properties gaining value and desirability.


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Founder and Publisher of, longtime resident of South Baltimore, and a graduate of Towson University. Diehard Ravens and O's fan, father of three, amateur pizza chef, skateboarder, and "bar food" foodie. Email me at and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.
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