LAUREL, Md. - Hundreds of thousands of horse racing enthusiasts will converge to Maryland for the 143rd Preakness Stakes this weekend. The race is held at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore every May, but there has been talk of moving the location of the event to Laurel.
Laurel Park is already preparing for the possibility of bringing the Preakness to their venue. At 300 acres, Laurel Park is three times the size of Pimlico. It has made $30 million in upgrades and can handle both smaller year-round events as well as the big events such as the second jewel of the Triple Crown.
However, Pimlico holds an iconic place in horse racing history. It is where Seabiscuit and War Admiral battled in the "Race of the Century." Secretariat ran his last-to-first victory at Pimlico when he won the 1973 Triple Crown.
But the racetrack known as "Old Hilltop" is showing its age and keeping it up and running 148 years after opening its doors will not be cheap. A study from the Maryland Stadium Authority estimates it will cost a staggering $250 to $320 million to renovate.
The state agency will release the second phase of the study with their recommendations later this year.
The Stronach Group, which owns both Pimlico and Laurel Park, will decide if the Preakness will stay or go. The company said if Baltimore wants to keep the race, the city and state will have to pitch in financially.
Laurel Mayor Craig Moe said he is excited about the possibility of getting the Preakness Stakes.
“The economic impact alone I think would be very beneficial for many of the businesses,” he said. “I have been to the Preakness. I see how it brings the community together. They do weeklong events and I think Laurel has always been known for community, community events and coming together. I think it gives us another opportunity to really come together and do different events leading up to Preakness."
Even if the Preakness moves to Laurel Park, it is not necessarily a death sentence for Pimlico. The racetrack could benefit from the Supreme Court ruling this past Monday to legalize sports betting.
However, Maryland would still need to approve a constitutional amendment and the earliest that would likely happen is 2020.