For most, including Baltimore residents, the Preakness is one of the city’s most cherished sporting events once a year at the Pimlico Race Course. The historic horse race is the second jewel of the Triple Crown — a time to attract high-profile guests, bet on the horses, party in the infield, and unfortunately damage a youth sports field.
For the past few years, the Baltimore Terps — a youth sports program that serves more than 300 children ages 4-14 — has coped with the aftermath of Preakness parking on the sports field they use for football and lacrosse. That finally changed in 2018, when public pressure ended parking on the sports field.
The Terps use a field just up the road from Pimlico, which is owned by Baltimore City. On race day and days leading up to the event, the field has been used as a parking lot for cars, trucks and buses. It may seem like a good use of space due to limitations of parking in the community of where the racetrack is located, but in the past few years, race day has been showered with heavy rain. This created craters and ruts on the sports field, which resulted in parents and volunteers of the Terps program repairing the field, according to an article by Baltimore Brew.
Many of the kids in the program have twisted their ankles. Baltimore Terps founder Kweisi Ehoize grew weary of the harm that could continue, so he found a solution to the problem. He identified a nearby MTA Metro parking lot at Rogers Avenue to host Preakness parking.
By building support around this issue and putting pressure on city government officials and the Maryland Jockey Club to find another parking alternative, Ehoize’s voice was heard. This year’s Preakness staff and guests did not park on the sports field.
Field improvements could also happen in the future, using $492,000 in Pimlico slot money, which will help to build a new baseball diamond, walking and running track, and support other improvements.
Growing access to play spaces for most children starts with thinking small — simple, smart moves that hold great promise. By thinking creatively, all parties involved helped youth keep their field intact. Professional sporting events should bring communities together, not prevent children from the opportunity to play or risk injury while playing sports. More collaboration with community leaders is needed to help pro sport and city officials make informed decisions when they impact the community.
Project Play: Baltimore is a multiyear initiative designed to help city stakeholders grow the quantity and quality of sport options available to local youth. It is the first model community initiative organized by the Aspen Institute’s Sports & Society Program. Supported by Under Armour, it is a bold experiment designed to serve and inspire Baltimore’s communities.