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Baltimore's push to preserve the Preakness

Pimlico owners said to be open to continuing talks
preakness rally.jpg
Posted at 5:39 PM, Mar 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-07 07:21:57-05

BALTIMORE, Md. — Braving freezing temperatures, dozens of people from the Park Heights community gathered across the street from Pimlico, rallying to keep the Preakness from moving to Laurel and hopeful that the owners of the track hadn't given up on keeping it Baltimore.

"We spoke with the Stronach group yesterday, a group of community presidents, and they're ready to go back to the table," said George Mitchell, a community leader.

Baltimore City Mayor Catherine Pugh is stepping up pressure on the Canada-based company.

"We understand they are a company and a corporation, and we want them to continue to make money, I mean they are billionaires, but we want them to make more, but at the same time, you cannot neglect the whole community... a whole city," said Pugh.

As part of the lobbying effort, the city is targeting state leaders who are entertaining a bill that would send the Preakness packing for the site closer to Washington D.C.

"We need our state officials to understand that Baltimore City is a part of the rest of the state. You can't neglect us,” said Pugh. “We created our own neighborhood impact investment fund. We've created our own, because we're saying to the state, 'We have the ability to step up.' Let's be real. Re-doing that track is about $29 million. Okay? That's the track, but when you talk about this facility and we're talking about a year-round facility then they need to sit down with us and talk about how to create a year-round facility that everybody bodes well."

A competing bill would slow down the process, creating a work group to develop a financial plan to re-invent Old Hilltop and to keep the Preakness Stakes where it's been since 1873.

"You don't hear people talking about moving the Kentucky Derby or moving the Indianapolis 500 or moving the Belmont Stakes,” said Mitchell, “This is the Preakness. This is Baltimore City, and we're going to fight to keep the Preakness here."

The city and state recently invested over a $100 million in Park Heights to improve education, recreation, housing and services for residents, but if the Preakness should move, many fear the community would never recover from it.