02/05/2013 4:16PM

Improvements planned for Pimlico, Laurel


The Maryland Jockey Club is considering “significant” improvements to the grandstands and clubhouses at its two racetracks, Pimlico and Laurel, but is not ready to announce specifics for the plans, according to Tom Chuckas, chief operating officer of the MJC.

According to Chuckas, both tracks will be targeted for fan-friendly improvements following the nearly complete rebuilding of the backstretches at the tracks, including the replacement of all the barns at Laurel Park and the building of 300 additional stalls at Laurel and 200 additional stalls at Pimlico. Those projects are not expected to be completed until the end of 2015, with plans for additional improvements at the tracks being hashed out in the meantime.

Chuckas made the comments during a conference call with reporters following the release Tuesday morning of a document the MJC filed with the Maryland Racing Commission on Friday about its capital-improvement plans. The MJC was required to submit the plan under a provision of a law passed last year allowing it to use subsidies from state casinos for capital-improvement projects.

In response to questions regarding the specific plans for the two tracks, Chuckas said that the plan for Pimlico envisions substantial changes to the grandstand, including the establishment of retail businesses on the track property. Chuckas said the plan would be akin to the redevelopment of Gulfstream Park, the south Florida track that is owned, like the Maryland Jockey Club, by the Stronach Group.

When asked what improvements would be geared toward racing fans, Chuckas said that the tracks might receive new simulcast and dining areas, but he said the track did not want to offer specifics just yet.

“When we do decide what has to be done, we want to state it emphatically and make sure that it’s something that is going to get done,” Chuckas said. “We don’t want to mislead anyone.”

Chuckas said that the MJC has estimated that the state will set aside approximately $7 million a year from casino revenues for the Racetrack Facility Renewal Account, the fund set up by the 2012 legislation. The MJC will be able to use the account to provide up to half of the cost of any capital-improvement project that is approved by regulators.

The backside projects at the two tracks are expected to cost $30.5 million, the MJC said in its filing with the state. The costs include the building of six new barns and a grooms’ quarters at Pimlico and 10 new barns at Laurel, along with related infrastructure projects, the MJC estimated.

“This early work is critical to address short-term needs throughout the industry,” the MJC said in a letter to regulators accompanying the proposals.