Supertrack a good bet for Md.

faceoff: should the state step in to save horse racing and the preakness?

March 19, 2009|By BILL ORDINE

For starters, I want to go on record as having made a sports department pronouncement that the state should consider using the stadium authority to fix the problems in Maryland's rapidly deteriorating horse racing industry days before state Senate President Mike Miller publicly revived the "supertrack" concept.

Unfortunately, throwing taxpayer money at something seemingly as frivolous as horse racing is a tough sell these days, considering the broad sentiment against public bailouts. But the idea of the state acquiring Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course along with the Preakness Stakes and embarking on a supertrack project in the longer term would be a prudent and far-sighted use of public dollars.

There's no reason a supertrack couldn't be a multi-use, 365-day facility that incorporates racing with slots gambling and other amenities. It would give architects and civic planners an opportunity to duplicate the genius of Camden Yards and come up with creative ways to complement existing tourist attractions.

Some will argue that government should not intervene in saving horse racing or in keeping the Preakness in Maryland or even in preserving the state's horse industry. But without government taking the lead in building the current baseball and football stadiums, the Orioles might be elsewhere by now and the Baltimore Ravens would be inconceivable.

Because of aggressive government involvement almost 20 years ago, generations of Maryland sports fans will have major league and NFL teams to root for for decades, and the region and the state enjoy the immeasurable material and intangible value the teams add.

So, while salvaging Maryland horse racing and the Preakness with public dollars might seem extravagant in the context of today's economic distress, in decades to come, the money certainly would be regarded as well spent.

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