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City of Baltimore sues owners of Pimlico and the Preakness

The city wants to take ownership of the Preakness
Posted at 9:22 PM, Mar 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-20 23:36:35-04

BALTIMORE, Md. — The Mayor of Baltimore, City council, and three Park Heights residents have filed a lawsuit against the Stronach Group to prevent the company, its entities, and MEDCO from moving the Preakness out of Baltimore, according to Baltimore City Solicitor Andre Davis.

According to court documents, city officials want to petition to condemn the Pimlico Race Course and the Preakness Stakes so the city can take over ownership.

The lawsuit also hopes to prohibit the company from issuing unconstitutional bond financing that would increase disinvestment in Pimlico Race Course.

The pending MEDCO legislation requires the Comptroller to pay up to 80 percent of state Video Lottery Terminal funds for racetrack improvements, for an indefinite number of years, in order to pay back bonds. They say this will lead to MEDCO issuing up to $120 million to the Stronach Group for its capital improvements in order to benefit the Laurel Racetrack and the Bowie Race Course Training Center.

Baltimore City officials say the Stronach Group's systematic disinvestment in Baltimore is not an emergency, but is detrimental to the city.

The city wants the Court to declare that the pending MEDCO legislation not only violates Maryland's Constitution's debt restrictions but it will contribute to the Stronach Group's improvements while making it a disinvestment for Pimlico.

City Solicitor Andre Davis believes taking such a drastic step would allow the city to keep the race in Baltimore.

"Compromise and resolution of disputes is far preferable to full-board litigation, but the suit demonstrates that the mayor and city council are serious about the importance of the Preakness and to Pimlico, to the city."

Delegate Tony Bridges was named in the lawsuit and as of Wednesday he says he has since removed his name from the lawsuit because he is an elected official.

"There's a lot that's actually going on in the Park Heights Community right now. Besides the investment in the Pimlico Racecourse which is the missing piece. We've got two new great community schools, we've got 65 acres that's going to be redeveloped."

Bridges says he will instead work on laws over the next four years to keep the Preakness in Baltimore.

A few weeks ago Mayor Catherine Pugh was joined by city residents in Annapolis to rally keeping the Preakness in Baltimore. Two house bills were heard, one in favor of keeping the Preakness, the other in favor of it leaving Baltimore.

RELATED: Mayor Catherine Pugh, dozens of city residents rally to keep Preakness in Baltimore

The Preakness is expected to at least be in Baltimore until 2020, because Pimlico's owners say Laurel Park isn't ready to host the event just yet.

Two bills on the table in Annapolis could also affect whether Pimlico stays in the city or goes.

WMAR-2 News has reached out to the Stronach Group for a statement and are waiting to hear back.


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