The Maryland Stadium Authority took a major step toward rebuilding Pimlico Race Course when it selected the architects and engineers who will design $375 million worth of replacement structures in Baltimore and Laurel.
In a brief meeting this morning, the authority selected a team headed by Ayers Saint Gross of Baltimore to design a new clubhouse, grandstand and other facilities to accommodate the Preakness Stakes, one of the largest annual sports events in Maryland.
The vote was the first major public action involving reconstruction of the race course since the Maryland General Assembly approved plans last year to rebuild the facility in order to keep the Preakness in Baltimore and spark revitalization of the long-depressed Park Heights area.
Ayers Saint Gross was unanimously selected over nine other teams that responded to a request for proposals issued by the stadium authority, which is overseeing the reconstruction effort.
The contract was for $992,735 to design facilities for both the Pimlico and Laurel Park race courses. The contract does not require approval from the state Board of Public Works, so this was the final step in hiring architects and engineers for the project.
“Out of the gate”
The vote is a sign that the stadium authority is moving to rebuild Pimlico, as authorized by the Racing and Community Development Act of 2020.
“The horses are out of the gate now,” said State Del. Samuel “Sandy” Rosenberg, whose district includes the race course and who was a key figure behind the legislation.
“This will lead to all the other development which takes place on the majority of the property for the non-racing uses – for commercial, residential, recreational and medical,” Rosenberg said today. “This puts everything in motion.”
Adam Gross and Glenn Birx, both principals of Ayers Saint Gross, referred questions to the stadium authority.
Gary McGuigan, executive vice president of the stadium authority, said Ayers Saint Gross was chosen because a seven-member selection panel determined that it had the best interview, the best technical response and offered the lowest fee.
For preliminary studies, the stadium authority had been working with a Kansas City-based sports design firm, Populous, that has expertise in equestrian-related architecture. McGuigan said Populous is part of the Ayers Saint Gross team.
The search committee consisted of representatives from the stadium authority, Baltimore City, Anne Arundel County and the Stronach Group, the Canadian concern that currently owns the Pimlico and Laurel Park race courses.
Other groups that sought the commission were teams headed by Grimshaw Architects of London, the IBI Group of Toronto, and Callison/RTKL, Design Collective, Ewing Cole, Gensler, HKS, AE7 and Perkins Eastman of the U.S.
Preakness still on this year
McGuigan said the stadium authority is in the process of selecting a construction management firm.
Because the design work is expected to take two years, today’s action is not expected to interfere with plans to hold the Preakness at Pimlico this year, he said.
Located at 5201 Park Heights Avenue, the race course opened in 1870. It has been the home of the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing, since 1873.
The vision approved by the legislature calls for the racing facilities at both Pimlico and Laurel Park to be rebuilt for horse racing and for a third property, a training facility in Bowie, to be freed up for other uses.
The land at Pimlico and Laurel Park will be owned by the state of Maryland and leased to Stronach.
The race course in Baltimore will remain home to the Preakness Stakes, which typically draws more than 100,000 people to Pimlico one Saturday each May. The race course in Laurel will be rebuilt as the main location for horse racing in Maryland other than Preakness-related events.
The state’s plans for Pimlico call for it to become an events venue and community gathering spot when not used for horse racing.
A chief task for Ayers Saint Gross and Populous is to design a multi-purpose facility that can serve as host for one of the nation’s premier horse racing events, but accommodate other activities as well, from community meetings to regional conferences to catered events.
Proponents have said a rebuilt Pimlico would become an anchor for private development on about 50 acres around the course, including offices, restaurants and retail space, that would attract people to the area and help connect Park Heights and Mount Washington.