Opinion | Moving toward Pimlico’s finish line

Del. Sandy Rosenberg
Del. Sandy Rosenberg (Brough Schamp)

By Del. Sandy Rosenberg

I watched my first Preakness from the attic window of the house on the corner of Rogers and Merville avenues.

That’s where Jay Slater lived.

We were friends and classmates at Cross Country Elementary School. Jay’s family owned Slater’s Grocery on Park Heights Avenue, just below Belvedere.

The Slater house was knocked down years ago, but protecting the interests of the neighborhoods surrounding Pimlico Race Track has been one of my priorities since I was first elected to the House of Delegates.

In 1987, when the new owner of the track introduced a bill to allow Sunday racing, my constituents were opposed.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer and Sen. Barbara Hoffman struck a compromise with the track’s owner. (As a second-term member, I was not in the room where it happened.)

Sunday racing would be permitted, but the Preakness must be run in Baltimore, unless there is a disaster or emergency.

When the possibility arose that Pimlico would be closed and the Preakness moved to Laurel, I drew upon both my racing and my legislative experience.

Past performances are how thoroughbreds are judged and bets are made.

It’s very unusual for a horse at odds of 80-1 to win the Kentucky Derby or the third race at Pimlico on a weekday afternoon.

When I’m trying to solve a policy problem, I rely upon state agencies with a track record of accomplishment.

No agency was better than the Maryland Stadium Authority to conduct a study of the viability of Pimlico to remain “the long-term home of the Preakness.” The authority built the baseball and football stadiums at Camden Yards, the Hippodrome Theatre and many other facilities across the state.

In this instance, the study concluded that Pimlico should be rebuilt, with a majority of the site developed for residential and commercial uses. The study, issued in 2018, also found that the Preakness generates approximately $5 million in state and local tax revenue.

The Racing and Community Development Act was adopted by the General Assembly two years later. It provides for the modernization of both Pimlico and Laurel Race Tracks. This means that the Baltimore metropolitan area and Prince George’s County are no longer fighting over where the Preakness will be run. We are allies in redeveloping both Pimlico and Laurel.

Before this bill passed, I was meeting with neighborhood groups on all sides of the race track. Mayor Jack Young responded to our group’s request to create a formal mechanism for community input in decisions regarding Pimlico’s future. He created the Pimlico Redevelopment Community Compact.

We meet every month. Our activities will increase as a result of legislation passed by the General Assembly this session.

H.B. 897 requires the Stadium Authority to report to the General Assembly on the progress of redevelopment at both race tracks by Sept. 30.

In addition, the act establishes the intent of the General Assembly that design, architecture, engineering and permitting proceed at the Pimlico site by Sept. 1.

These are clear signs of the legislature’s continued support for both projects.

We’re not in the home stretch yet for Pimlico, but we’re moving toward the finish line — the Preakness on the third Saturday in May and a redevelopment project worthy of a Triple Crown community year round.

Del. Sandy Rosenberg represents the 41st district in the Maryland House of Delegates.

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