MEC Moves Forward With Maryland Track Improvements

The Maryland Racing Commission Sept. 9 commended Magna Entertainment Corp. for progress in meeting its commitment to upgrade the barn areas at Pimlico Race Course, Laurel Park, and the Bowie Training Center.

MEC president Jim McAlpine told the commission the company had spent $2.8 million on backstretch upgrades as of Aug. 31 and had deposited $2.2 million into an escrow account to pay for ongoing improvements.

"We're going to get it done," McAlpine said of MEC's agreement with the racing commission to refurbish the dilapidated stables at Pimlico, Laurel, and Bowie.

Magna was to have spent $5 million by the end of August, but its failure to spend the entire amount had sparked the commission's ire.

The largest single expenditure of the $2.8 million was $681,925 for containers for horse manure and dirty straw. Lou Raffetto Jr., chief operating officer of the Maryland Jockey Club, said the 137 containers alleviate the problem of polluted-water runoff by keeping manure off the ground.

Other improvements include paving, repairing water lines, upgrading electrical connections in workers' dormitories so that air-conditioners can be installed, creating a recreation hall at Pimlico, buying a new ambulance for Laurel, refurbishing bathrooms, upgrading kitchen and laundry facilities, rehabilitating barns and replacing the rundown, 20-stall pony barn at Laurel, Raffetto said.

Construction of new barns at Laurel will commence after building permits are issued, McAlpine said. He said he expects the permits to be issued by the end of November.

In another matter, the commission directed its attorney to write a letter to Penn National Race Course threatening to cut off the exchange of signals between the Pennsylvania track and Maryland tracks. The cutoff would occur if Penn National does not comply with Maryland regulations regarding telephone-account betting.

According to state regulations, companies that take bets by telephone from Maryland residents, such as Penn National, must operate through a licensed racetrack in Maryland. According to Maryland officials, Penn National has refused to operate through the MJC, which operates Laurel and Pimlico.