David Cordish is chairman of the family-owned Cordish Companies and grandson of Louis Cordish, who founded the Baltimore-based firm in 1910. The multi-billion dollar global conglomerate focuses on two areas: real estate development and operating entertainment business.
Recognized as the leading international developer of large-scale urban revitalization projects and entertainment districts, those in the Thoroughbred industry would most likely have seen their handiwork in Louisville’s Fourth Street Live! and Baltimore’s Power Plant Live! projects.
All three of David Cordish's sons, Jonathan, Blake, and Reed Cordish are active in the business. Blake and Reed Cordish are vice presidents of the company with responsibilities over the entertainment/mixed-use and restaurant/club divisions, respectively. Jonathan Cordish is also a vice president and acts as the chairman of its media/film division as well as an advisor to the private equity investment division.
The Cordish Co. plans to build a 4,750-machine, 200,000-square foot slots parlor the Arundel Mills Mall near Laurel Park in Maryland. The company has also submitted a bid for the Maryland Jockey Club tracks of Laurel and Pimlico that are currently owned by the bankrupt Magna Entertainment Corp.
We caught up with David Cordish recently and asked him five questions:
You have stated the Arundel Mills Mall slots project and the bid for MJC are separate deals. Could you explain?
“The Maryland gaming legislation was crafted so the horse racing industry receives 9.5% of gross gaming revenues from slot facilities, no matter where the facilities are located. Therefore, it is in the state's interest and the interest of the horse racing industry that the casino facilities be located where slots revenues can be maximized.
“Arundel Mills is not only the best gaming entertainment site in Anne Arundel County and the state of Maryland, but probably the best gaming location in the entire United States. Arundel Mills is an existing regional destination that already attracts more than 14 million people per year. The project includes an existing 1.3 million square feet of retail, dining, and entertainment attractions like Bass Pro Shops, Neiman Marcus Last Call, Saks Off 5th, Nike, and one of the top grossing movie theaters in the country, plus 1,200 hotel rooms and direct access from major highways and arteries. It also has a tremendous infrastructure in place and is ready to go. With the addition of our gaming entertainment facility, Maryland Live!, Arundel Mills will be the most powerful gaming, leisure and entertainment destination in the country. It would be impossible to duplicate the amenities and attractions that are already in place at Arundel Mills and there is no other site in the State that could come close to generating the gross gaming revenues that can be achieved at Arundel Mills.
“By maximizing gaming revenues at Arundel Mills, we maximize the revenues to the horse racing industry and maximize the capital improvement monies available to modernize the Maryland tracks. Along the way, we create 4,000 jobs immediately in an economy with 10%+ unemployment and send around $450 million a year to the state of Maryland to fund education and other critical needs.”
The Anne Arundel County Board of Elections has certified a petition to overturn zoning for the project that will allow slots opponents to attempt to put the issue on the ballot this fall. How long could the zoning process take?
“While we do not believe the attempt to petition the Anne Arundel County zoning bill to referendum will be successful, the industry needs to understand that the effect of a successful referendum process would be catastrophic to the horse racing industry and effectively eliminate the possibility of slots in Anne Arundel County for a very long time. The zoning bill passed by the Anne Arundel County Council provides zoning for both Arundel Mills and Laurel. In essence, we have a situation where Laurel Race Track is funding a petition to give county voters the opportunity to repeal zoning at its own property.
“Magna’s strategy at Laurel would be humorous were it not for the fact it puts the entire horse industry in Maryland at risk. Horse breeders, trainers, jockeys, and others who make a living in the industry cannot hold on much longer without an infusion of revenues from gaming and an injection of creativity and professional, visionary management from new ownership of the tracks. Any effort by Magna or anyone else to create obstacles to the opening of a slots facility at Arundel Mills is being done based on individual corporate interests, not that of the Maryland horse industry. The Cordish Co. has been formally selected and licensed by the state of Maryland, zoned by Anne Arundel County, and is processing its construction plans expeditiously. There is no rational argument for any industry opposition to the Cordish Co.’s efforts to open as soon as possible at Arundel Mills.”
You have mentioned redeveloping the land around Laurel Park and Pimlico. What does that entail? Any specifics?
“The first step is to improve the physical plants, grandstands, food and beverage operations, barns and living areas at both Laurel and Pimlico. Comprehensive marketing plans will be implemented for mega-events like the Preakness (gr. I) and Maryland Million, as well as significantly increasing special events and promotional opportunities throughout the year. The second phase will be to add world-class dining and entertainment venues and other complementary attractions to the tracks to enhance the entertainment value of the racing experience.”
You have developed several entertainment and casino venues all over the country including Baltimore’s Power Plant Live! How does that help you in the bidding process on the MJC and what is the entertainment value of racing in Maryland today?
“The Cordish Co. is one of the largest gaming, entertainment, and development companies in the country. Many of the projects we have successfully completed had previously failed under other ownership or were deemed impossible to pull off. The two Hard Rock Hotels and Casinos we developed in Florida are the most successful gaming and entertainment facilities in the U.S. Our background and expertise in combining sports anchors like race tracks and stadiums, with complementary leisure, dining, and entertainment amenities, backed by our active management and sophisticated marketing support provides us a unique perspective on the Maryland tracks and represents the type of core competencies that are absolutely necessary to modernize the industry and broaden its appeal to a much wider demographic.
“Unfortunately, the entertainment value of the racing experience in Maryland today is extremely poor. Maryland has a rich racing history and culture, yet its facilities have been allowed to deteriorate for years, there has been no attempt to expand the dining and entertainment offerings and other complementary amenities at the tracks and there has been little effort to expand and modernize the sport’s appeal to a broader demographic. Horse racing in Maryland is a major league sport which has been managed like a minor league franchise.”
What is your favorite Preakness memory?
“Partying in the infield was an annual ritual and watching Spectacular Bid in 1979 was truly spectacular.”