City needs an arena far more

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

March 19, 2009|By DAVID STEELE

Don't get me wrong. Losing the Preakness would, in fact, take another piece of the city's and state's soul. After all, you can't get world-class port-a-potty racing just anywhere. Or horse racing.

I wonder what it would take, though, to convince the people in charge that basketball, and all kinds of other indoor sports and entertainment events, are also part of Baltimore's soul, and just as worthy of saving - or at least caring about.

The city is still being underserved by the decrepit, obsolete 1st Mariner Arena. The possibilities, and revenues, created by a top-notch arena to match Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium are plentiful and well documented, from concerts and ice shows to NCAA and college conference tournament games. (Or, dare we say it, the return of the NBA?) Those possibilities evade Baltimore every year. Yet nothing gets the populace, and apparently the politicians, riled up the way a threat to Maryland's horse racing legacy does.

Saving Pimlico and the Preakness would energize the one day each year that racing remains relevant and profitable. A way-overdue downtown arena would benefit the city and state practically every day.

Look small-picture, and you'll move heaven and earth to save the Preakness. Look big-picture, and you'll put the one-day spectacle on the back burner until Baltimore gets the arena it has needed for decades.

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