Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore is poised to undergo a $400-million revitalization program aimed at turning the venerable home of horse racing’s Preakness Stakes into a year-round attraction.

Approved by Maryland’s General Assembly on April 8, the bond-funded plan would follow recommendations issued in January by the Maryland Thoroughbred Racetrack Operating Authority (MTROA) following a year-long study. Along with the state assuming ownership of Pimlico from its current owners, the Stronach Group, the existing mile-long track would be rotated and rebuilt. A state-of-the-art clubhouse, observation tower and stables for approximately 700 horses also would be constructed.

The plan also envisions a privately developed event space, hotel and 2,000-vehicle garage to complement the renewed Pimlico facilities.

The reconstruction will likely take two years, requiring the 2025 and 2026 runnings of the Preakness to take place at nearby Laurel Park, which Maryland will also own under the plan. Both facilities are to be leased to and operated by a professional nonprofit organization. 

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (D) is expected to sign the measure.

Opened in 1870, Pimlico’s storied history has been shrouded in recent decades by aging facilities and constrained location within Baltimore’s Park Heights neighborhood. The state and Pimlico’s owners already had been exploring renovation options when several thousand grandstand seats were closed off in 2019 due to safety concerns.

The pandemic also has dealt a blow to Pimlico’s fortunes, with 2023’s two-day Preakness weekend attendance barely one-third of the 180,000 grandstand and infield visitors announced four years earlier.

The revitalization aims to bolster Maryland’s $2-billion equine industry by providing up to 160 days of racing events each year, complemented by other events and activities at the facilities. The MTROA report also recommends building veterinarian facilities and developing a new training facility at a separate location.