April 18, 2019

Ritvo addresses future of Preakness at Pimlico

Pimlico is the current home of the Preakness Stakes (Vance Hanson photo)

Tim Ritvo, the chief operating officer of The Stronach Group, which owns Pimlico and Laurel, addressed the media on the afternoon of the Preakness (G1). Most of the questions Ritvo fielded related to the future of the Preakness being held at Pimlico. Below is a selection of his comments on the matter.

“I’m understanding of the city and the historical value of the race being run here, but at the same time, from a business perspective, obviously we struggle to see why you would rebuild a facility when you have another facility that you’ve put a lot of money in for day in day out racing that gives a better experience from a transportation standpoint, 300 acres, more land, and stuff like that…The fan experience can’t be at the elevation, the level that it should be for a Triple Crown race, in this facility.”

On whether The Stronach Group accepts lower Preakness attendance that would accompany the move of the race to Laurel…

“Everything is more to the premium quality seats. We don’t want to leave the small customer that likes to pay a $50 venue fee to get in and see it, but it seems like that’s the direction the industry is going in especially when you see events like the Breeders’ Cup and stuff like that.”

“I have a really good layout in my head, a plan, what Laurel could like with about 75-80,000 people. On the right side far turn we would have the concert and the right of passage. On the left side of the grandstand, where it stops at the sixteenth pole, like the corporate village would go out that way…I have those plan ingrained in my head, but we’re going to move forward with those regardless. We’re going to try and get a Breeders’ Cup there, we’re going to have the day in and day out racing there. The improvements needed to come whether the Preakness moved or not. We’re still open minded to see if the city and state feel strong enough that if they want to build a facility here, and we operate here, we’d still be able to do that, but at the same time Laurel has to continue to take that elevation of improvements in experience so we can grow the business.”

“One thing we would like to see is a horse race where people can see the other side of the track someday, and if we could do that experience at Laurel where we don’t need the infield and we can build that infrastructure around, we think that would enhance the game and the experience of horse racing would improve.”

On whether the The Stronach Group would rebuild Pimlico alone without city/state investment…

“We’re not looking to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into a facility here and to continue to renovate Laurel.”

“…ten years ago we looked at Baltimore and Pimlico being the main racetrack day in and day out and selling off the Laurel property, but when we started to weigh the difference of 120 acres to 300 acres, a train station, and a struggling community around it, it was an easy decision to say ‘OK, Laurel is the one that makes sense,’ and that’s where a lot of our investment went.”