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Feb 06 2013

Is the sun setting on the sun-soaked Laurel grandstand?

If Frank Stronach has his way, future generations of racegoers will never know the stifling “greenhouse effect” of the mid-day sun trapped in the glass-enclosed Laurel grandstand. 

And Pimlico will benefit from “substantial patron focused improvements to the Clubhouse and Grandstand buildings.”

But that’s off in a somewhat misty — and, in the case of the Laurel improvements, at any rate, conditional — future.  Though the frontside plans for Laurel appear farther along than those for Pimlico, the Laurel plans will come to fruition “as the business will support them.”

These tidbits are contained in the preliminary capital improvement plan the Maryland Jockey Club (MJC) presented to the state Department of Management and Budget last week.  In that plan, the MJC calls for removing Laurel’s old, south-facing grandstand and replacing it with a new, north-facing facility located on the opposite side of the track.  That new grandstand would be the centerpiece of a new mixed-use development, including retail and a hotel — a kind of Gulfstream North.

But before we get to the front of house improvements, there’s the small matter of more than $30 million in backside improvements at the two tracks over approximately two years.

The phase one improvements to Pimlico include:

  • a new Grooms Quarters building with 130 housing units;
  • six new 36-stall barns; and
  • associated infrastructure improvements.

In Phase Two, the MJC proposes to construct 12 new barns — though it is expected that some or all of these will replace existing barns — two new housing quarters, and a canteen.

Meanwhile, plans call for more than 300 new stalls, in 10 barns, to be built at Laurel in two phases in 2013 and 2014.  The MJC will build those barns on currently vacant land east of Brock Bridge Road, necessitating the construction of a tunnel to enable horses to cross the road to reach the track safely, as well as other infrastructure improvements.

The phase one improvements at Pimlico and phases one and two improvements at Laurel are all required as part of the 10-year agreement that the MJC, horsemen, and breeders reached in December.

Taken together, they will add more than 500 stalls to help replace those stalls lost with the impending closure of the Bowie training center and allow Maryland to retain nearly year-round racing.

The submission of this plan enable allow the MJC to tap into state funding.  The Racetrack Facility Renewal Account (RFRA), generated from slot machine revenue, will provide matching funds for capital improvements to the tracks.
Bottom line: new accommodations for the horses are coming soon.  The patrons?  We’ll have to wait a while.

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2 comments

  1. Tricia

    I am glad the backstretch improvements are being done first. The workers and the horses spend much more time at Laurel then us racegoers : )

  2. admin

    true enough, and the backside work was necessary for both contractual and practical reasons… but we really do need some work to the frontside to grow the game…

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