The dirt oval where Seabiscuit and War Admiral faced off head-to-head would be gone, torn up and relegated to history, as would the creaky grandstands and clubhouse where fans cheered on greats like Secretariat, American Pharoah and Justify, all eventual Triple Crown winners.
Under a new $424 million plan put forth in a report by the Maryland Stadium Authority, Pimlico Race Course would remain up on Old Hilltop, but everything would be razed and a new multi-use complex would be built on the 110-acre parcel. The new track, 15/16 miles in length on the dirt, would be rotated 35 degrees clockwise, and there are plans for an all new state-of-the-art clubhouse for the massive crowds that turn out for the Preakness Stakes.
Imagine this: Turning off Northern Parkway into the Gateway District, a mix of commercial and residential buildings, and pulling up at the sleek, modern grandstand with large glass panels.
You might be there for a horse race, but most days of the year Pimlico is just as likely to be the setting for an outdoor festival at The Palio or site of a game on the sports fields that dot the infield.
Looking out across the track, there’s more commercial space beyond the first turn, housing along the backstretch and the curved buildings of a new campus for LifeBridge Health that follows the far turn.
Here’s an in-depth look at the potential new home of the Preakness:
The four-story, 409,000-square-foot building would be more efficient than its predecessor and “provides more efficient circulation throughout the building [and] better views.” On the first floor, there’s a museum and cafe open to the public year-round on the east end and off-track betting and a sports book (should sports gambling be legalized by the legislature).
Above that, on floors two and three, are dining options with views of the track and clubs. “It is envisioned that these levels could be designed for extreme flexibility, including operable walls and technology to support a wide variety of events such as conferences, banquets, and eSports,” the Maryland Stadium Authority report says.
These floors would have adaptable design features such as a glass curtain that can open horizontally, a movable ceiling and LED screens.
Up on the fourth floor, plans call for 32,000 square feet of suites and club spaces that can easily be converted to conference rooms or event spaces. Similarly, the rooftop could be “easily reconfigured to support race day outdoor lounge space, event hospitality space or even an ideal flight platform for infield drone racing.”
Named for the Palio di Siena, a horse race in the public square of Siena, Italy, this 500-foot-by-300-foot plaza would have a slightly sunken bowl in the middle, allowing racing fans to see the horses as they are saddled before post time.
On non-racing days, it could “host a wide variety of public events including concerts, performing arts, festivals, and markets that will help draw the community together.”
The infield will still be, well, a field of grass, but like the rest of the design, there’s an emphasis on adaptability. Renderings show as many as eight soccer or lacrosse fields and two baseball diamonds occupying the green space, along with the winner’s circle with its horseshoe-shaped hedges and the replica of the cupola from the old Pimlico clubhouse, which was destroyed by a fire in 1966.
This space could also be used for a farmers’ market, concerts and festivals, and house temporary basketball courts, walkways and bicycle paths, and a community garden.
Patrons trying to access the infield on racing days would use a pivoting bridge that sits between the dirt and turf tracks.
Renderings show that throughout the year, Queensberry and Pembridge avenues could possibly cut through the Pimlico property, connecting Northern Parkway and Belvedere Avenue.
On Preakness Day
Much like the current edition, future Preakness Stakes days would have lots of add-on suites and seating options. A map shows suites and and tents with dining being added in the infield along the stretch, just as they are now. Just east of the clubhouse, a plot of land could hold a small tower of suites.
Reserved seating would be installed along the stretch and the first turn, with bleachers being added at a couple spots on the rail.