On the morning after the Preakness Stakes, Pimlico Race Course typically is home to a long-standing ritual: a huge cleanup effort to pick up thousands of empty beer cans, food waste and discarded clothing left behind by drunken infield revelers.
But not this year.
Thanks to the new ban on bring-your-own alcohol, this year's Preakness may be remembered - at least by the people who work the event - as the first in memory where they didn't have a foul stew of booze and other detritus to sweep away the day after the festivities.
"Usually the infield looks like a tin plate with the beer cans lying around," said Elizabeth Romiti, a manager with Pritchard Sports and Entertainment Group, a contractor that handles the Preakness cleanup. "This year it was nothing."
Many believe the BYOB ban put a damper on the infamously wild infield party - and helped drive track attendance down 31 percent, to 77,850 - the smallest crowd since 1983.
But wagering on the Preakness Stakes shot up to $59 million, compared with $45 million last year, an increase horse racing officials attributed to the competitive field of horses.
Still, fewer attendees at the track meant less trash, and less trash meant fewer low-wage workers needed to help clean up.
Romiti said she turned away 100 temp-agency workers early Sunday because Pritchard didn't need them. The company used about 160 workers to finish the cleanup, compared with about 250 in years past. The workers earn $6.80 an hour, she said.
The crews had finished cleaning by 8:30 a.m. Sunday; in past years, they would work well past noon to get the track facilities cleaned up, Romiti said.
Instead of the six dump trucks they used last year, workers needed only three trucks to haul away waste, Pritchard officials said.
Shawn Staples, 36, who grew up in Park Heights and now lives in Southwest Baltimore, was part of a four-man cleanup crew that tackled part of the infield Sunday morning. They cleaned under and near bleachers and portable toilets. While they picked up a good amount of trash, it wasn't overwhelming, he said. And he described the infield grass as being in good shape. "Clean and green," he said.
"On a scale of 1 to 10, maybe a 7," Staples said of the trash.
Charles Jordan, a regional manager with Pritchard, said workers had worked overnight on Saturday, until 3 a.m., picking up trash. The next shift came in at 5 a.m. The amount of trash inside Pimlico's buildings was about the same as last year, Jordan said. But the infield was far cleaner, he said.
"The grass is still green," Jordan said.
Another difference -- workers didn't encounter any sleeping Preakness patrons. In past years, Jordan said, it wasn't uncommon for the sun to rise on a few people sleeping in the Pimlico infield. Sometimes, they'd be found on the grass or asleep in lawn chairs. Once in a while, workers found them asleep inside portable toilets.
"Nobody was still sleeping out there" this year, Jordan said.
The future of the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore has been cast into doubt in recent years by the struggles of the horse racing industry and, more recently, by the bankruptcy-law filing by Pimlico's owner, Magna Entertainment Corp. Last month, the General Assembly passed emergency legislation authorizing Gov. Martin O'Malley to use eminent domain to seize the Preakness and Pimlico if necessary to protect the state's interests. It remains to be seen if that authority would stand up in bankruptcy court.
Tom Chuckas, president of the Maryland Jockey Club, a subsidiary of Magna that owns and operates Pimlico and Laurel Park, said Sunday that he believes the ban on outside alcohol at the Preakness will have a long-term benefit for one of Maryland's biggest annual sporting events.
"Do I have any regrets? The answer is no," Chuckas said. "Do I intend to reverse the policy? The answer is no. I understand that tradition and culture, and change can be difficult, but I think change is good. I think this will benefit many people and hurt only a few."
Corporate sponsorships were expected to be down about 10 percent, and the track's main merchandise seller - All Pro Championships - reported a 40 percent decline in sales of shirts, hats and other items at its infield locations, according to owner Bob Nettles.
But for the horse racing industry, the money that counts is the handle - the total amount wagered - because a percentage gets redistributed as prize money and a commission for the track owner.
That figure, $86,684,470 for all races run Saturday at Pimlico, was the fifth highest ever for the second jewel of horse racing's Triple Crown.
"I think the increase in wagering will help offset the decreased attendance in the infield," Chuckas said. Though he didn't have final figures on concession revenues, he said he believed they may have increased this year.
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