Bowie Race Track Site
Bowie Race Track
From 1914 to 1985 the Bowie Race Track was a popular site for Thoroughbred horse racing. When the track closed in 1985, it continued to be used by the owners as a training facility for horse racing, due in part to a state law requiring that the site be used as a training facility. Training operations ceased there in 2015.
Since that time, the Bowie Race Track property, which lies on both sides of Race Track Road, has been mostly dormant. A few years ago, the City expressed an interest in using Program Open Space funds to purchase some of the property. The owners were not interested in selling at the time.
The property is owned by the Stronach Group and consists of several parcels totaling approximately 160 acres. The company’s Maryland racing properties are known by the name Maryland Jockey Club.
In 2019, the owners proposed closing Pimlico in Baltimore and moving their primary racing operations to Laurel Park. Part of their plan was to upgrade the Bowie site and reopen it as a training facility to support the Laurel track.
On March 18, 2019, representatives of the Stronach Group spoke to the Bowie City Council about their plans to invest $40 million to make the Bowie Training Center (formerly the Bowie Race Track) a state-of-the-art training facility. This early proposal appears to be no longer under consideration due to opposition from the City of Baltimore and many members of the General Assembly.
A new proposal from Stronach seeks to address Baltimore’s concerns, preserve Maryland’s long history of horse racing, and upgrade the infrastructure to today’s racing standards. It does not include any long-term plans to use the Bowie site for training, although the training facility may be reopened for training while improvements are made at Laurel and Pimlico. Instead, Stronach has expressed a willingness to divest itself of at least some portion of the former Bowie Race Track property.
The General Assembly will decide the future of the Maryland racing sites during the 2020 session. Bowie State University and the City of Bowie both have an interest in obtaining the property. The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission is also interested in acquiring a portion of the property along the Patuxent River.
The Senate version of the bill contains language that specifies that the City of Bowie would receive a majority of the property when the current owners divest themselves of it.
The House version of the Racing and Community Development Act of the legislation (HB 1056) would create a task force to decide the future ownership of the Bowie Race Track property.
Read the text of the Racing and Community Development Act of 2020 (HB 1056) as introduced.
Hearings on both bills are scheduled for Tuesday, February 25, 2020, at 1 p.m. in Annapolis.
Those interested in testifying or presenting testimony for the hearings should contact Senator Peter’s office or Delegate Valentino Smith’s office for more information (contact information is below).
What should become of the Bowie Race Track property?
What happens to the Bowie Race Track is part of the larger discussion about the future of horse racing in Maryland and while the decision will be made at the State level, the City Council wanted to give Bowie residents an opportunity to have their say about the matter.
Community members were invited to attend a meeting on January 4, 2020 to offer comments on the future of the race track site. City Councilmembers and State Senator Douglas Peters, and Delegates Valentino Smith, Holmes, and Watson were present at the meeting along with approximately 250 concerned residents.
Residents suggested a variety of options for the site, including open space, recreational facilities, community garden space, living classroom experience for local schools, a racing history site, with ownership by the City of Bowie, Bowie State University, or the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, or some combination of these options. (See link to the video below.) Many also stressed the importance of preserving the environmentally sensitive areas bordering the Patuxent River. Most residents who spoke expressed opposition to additional housing or to any use that would substantially increase traffic on Race Track Road.
City Council Position
At its regular meeting on Monday, January 6, 2020, the City Council approved a letter to the 23rd Delegation expressing the City’s interest in acquiring the property for recreational uses and to preserve open space. View the letter at the link below.
As this matter is debated in the 2020 session of the General Assembly, residents are encouraged to continue to share their thoughts about the future of the former Bowie Race Track site with the City Council and all of the elected officials who represent them:
Governor Lawrence Hogan
100 State Circle
Annapolis, MD 21401-1925
Maryland 23rd Legislative District Delegation
Delegate Ron Watson
Prince George’s County
County Executive Angela Alsobrooks
County Council Chair Todd Turner
At-Large Council Member Mel Franklin
At-Large Council Member Calvin Hawkins
Bowie City Council
Mayor Timothy Adams
Mayor Pro Tem Adrian Boafo & District 3 Councilmember
At-Large Councilmember Henri Gardner
At-Large Councilmember Ingrid Harrison
District 1 Councilmember Michael Esteve
District 2 Councilmember Dufour Woolfley
District 4 Councilmember Roxy Ndebumadu
Links to more information
- Bowie Race Track Video
This video was created by Mike Rauck, who is a resident, amateur historian, and editor of the Bowie Living Facebook page. It was shown at the beginning of the January 4, 2020 meeting about the future of the race track.
- Community Meeting Video (1/4/2020)
- January 4, 2020 Meeting Handout: “Proposed Concept Plan for the Racing and Community Development Act of 2020"
- Letter to Prince George’s County Delegation Members from the City, supporting City ownership of the Race Track property (January 27, 2020)
- City Letter to 23rd District Delegation re: City’s position re: future ownership of Race Track (1/7/2020)
- City Letters to County Executive Alsobrooks and County Council re:disposition of the race track property(1/15/2020)
- Stronach Presentation to City Council (3/18//2019)
- Baltimore Sun article (10/5/2019)
- Bowie Blade-News Article (1/1/2020)
- History of horse racing in Bowie