Pimlico-Laurel redo bill cruises through state Senate
A rendering of the Pimlico plan created by the design firm Populous.
“What a difference a year makes,” Maryland state Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) said with a chuckle Friday as the votes came in on Senate Bill 987, the Racing and Community Development Act.
And with that — and a 44-1 vote in favor of the legislation — a problem that has bedeviled Maryland racing for decades moved closer to resolution.
Just a year after dueling pieces of legislation — one pushed by the Maryland Jockey Club and one advocated by the Baltimore City delegation — blew up in rather spectacular fashion at session’s end, a bill that has the support of both groups, plus the state’s Thoroughbred horsemen’s and breeders’ organizations, has garnered overwhelming bipartisan support.
Now it’s on to the House, where the legislation, sponsored by Speaker Adrienne Jones (D-Baltimore County), received a largely favorable response in its initial hearing February 25.
There is just over a month to go until the session ends.
The bill empowers the Maryland Stadium Authority to issue up to $375 million in bonds to support the two projects. Of that total, a minimum of $180 million must be directed to the Pimlico project, while at least $155 million must be devoted to the Laurel Park initiative.
Under the bill, the Pimlico site, as well as the Laurel racing facility site, would be conveyed to governmental entities. In part, that’s to make the facilities eligible for the bonds that would be issued by government entities.
In the case of the Pimlico property, the more than 100 acres of land the company owns constitute its contribution to the overall project.
MORE ON THE LEGISLATION
- Pimlico redo bill takes first step towards passage
- “The Preakness belongs in Baltimore”: House hears praise for proposed bill
- Pimlico legislation: Questions and answers
- Pimlico-Laurel revamp bill introduced in MD House
- Op-ed: New Pimlico needs the old
- Industry insiders laud Pimlico plan: “Our Triple Crown”
While the bill is focused on the project funding, project advocates have outlined plans that would call for the racing strip to be rotated 30 degrees. While that would require the shortening of the track from one mile to 15/16 of a mile, it would also open up several newly created parcels for development. That change gives the project an economic development angle that merely rebuilding the racetrack perhaps might not have.
The bill that finally did pass contains a number of amendments from the original. Most are minor or technical in nature, and some generally appear intended to strengthen the guardrails for the project to project the public interest.
One amendment does soften the legislative language regarding the Bowie Training Center. While the original Senate legislation directed that the Maryland Jockey Club convey the Bowie property to a pair of government entities, the revised bill merely states that it “is the intent of the General Assembly” that the property be conveyed to the entities — and not a requirement.
Under the legislation, the bonds would be repaid via a $17 million annual payment from the State Lottery Fund. That fund would be replenished via a combination of funds, including $5 million per annum from the Purse Dedication Account, $3.5 million annually from funding the city of Baltimore receives, and a big chunk — $8.5 million annually until it expires, as well as about $24 million in accrued but unspent funds — from the Racetrack Facilities Renewal Account.
The video below was produced by advocates of the proposal to raze and rebuild Pimlico and Laurel.
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