Laurel/Pimlico general manager John E. Mooney yesterday outlined a five-year plan to renovate Pimlico Race Course, highlighting barn-area improvements to be made this year.
Mooney, speaking to the Maryland Racing Commission, also said that once a Virginia racecourse, managed by the Maryland Jockey Club for a four month-long summer meet, is open, the stables at Pimlico will be shut each winter.
"We also plan to close the Laurel stable area in the summer while we're in Virginia," Mooney said. "But Bowie [Training Center] will remain open all year. That's stipulated by law."
In December, when Pimlico closed for training for the winter, track operator Joe De Francis said about $1 million would be spent on improvements this year, including re-skinning the exterior of the grandstand.
Mooney told the commissioners that about $700,000 in renovations to the Pimlico barn area will be made this year, including construction of two barns on the Pimlico Road side of the track. Also, some old barns will be demolished and five roofs on stables will be replaced.
He said that construction of the new barns "should be well under way" when Pimlico opens for live racing April 4.
Jim Peterson, Laurel/Pimlico's chief financial officer who heads the project, admitted that it has been "agonizingly slow early" to get the Pimlico renovation plan.
"It seems that more time is taken up in the planning, permitting and engineering process than it takes for actual construction," he said. "But I think we're on the fast track now."
Plans for the two new barns are complete. "On the outside, they will look like Barns 11 and 12 and will be built next to them," Peterson said. "But they'll be nicer on the inside, with wash stalls and more office and storage space." He said bids are being put out on the barns now and that he hopes to have all building permits in hand within 30 days.
Concurrently, two old barns on the Hayward Avenue side of the track will be torn down.
"What we plan to do is build two new 40-stall barns each year [on the Pimlico Road side of the track] and tear down two old ones [on the Hayward Avenue side," Peterson said. "I hope we can get it done quicker than five years."
In place of the Hayward Avenue barns will be park area and a new outdoor paddock. The Preakness Barn, however, will remain intact.
Peterson also said that the outside of the grandstand -- which commissioner John H. "Jack" Mosner Jr. said yesterday looks like "an abandoned factory" -- will be re-surfaced. "We haven't decided on the color yet," Peterson said. "But the material will be a plastic-concrete mixture that looks similar to stucco. It should make a big difference to the face of the building."
Although Peterson said all the improvements won't be done by April 4, "I hope people will be surprised by what has been done by then. And I think everyone will notice a dramatic change for the better by the Preakness."
Mosner said the commission has reviewed the Pimlico plans.
"We see a lot of positives," he said. "Unfortunately, it takes time and money to do these things. But the plan is progressive and we're satisfied that management is going to carry through on them."
NOTE: Beginning today and for the remainder of the winter meet, post time will be 12:45 p.m. for the live card at Laurel Park.