On Thursday, two days before the race, a water main broke in front of the complex. Whether the repairs were inadequate or additional pipes burst on Saturday is unclear. But water pressure was so negligible on the fourth floor of the grandstand that those restrooms were closed in the hours leasing up to the Preakness Stakes. And lines for restrooms on lower floors were unusually long as the sunny afternoon of pre-race partying unfolded.
Asked Saturday afternoon about the myriad ways in which the facility seemed to be falling apart, Tim Ritvo, chief operating officer for racing and gaming for the Stronach Group, which owns Pimlico, said: “It gets tougher every year to give the experience that the customer deserves for an event like this. A pipe broke about two days before the race out front. We had one break two years ago. We go in and repair it, and I guess, what they’re telling me — the engineers — the pressure and everything, it takes so much time to build up, clogged, it’s just old infrastructure. We do everything we can to keep it up to the level we can.”
A February 2017 study by the Maryland Stadium Authority concluded that the track needed $250 million in improvements. A follow-up study last year recommended that the complex be demolished and built anew, at a projected cost of $424 million.
In April, the track closed the Old Grandstand, taking roughly 6,700 seats out of commission for this year’s Preakness Stakes, after engineers concluded it could not bear the weight of so many spectators.