New developments in the Del Mar Fairgrounds sale

New developments on the sale of the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Another bill is expected to be introduced in the legislature next week to allow the sale, and Wednesday morning the City of Del Mar took the next step to buy the fairgrounds.

State Senator Christine Kehoe tried to ram a secretly negotiated deal thru the legislature two months ago but failed. She will try again at a special session next week. The deal in the works is one of those public-private partnerships between the City of Del Mar and a group of horse owners.

The partnership is willing to put up 30-million, plus another 15-million in capitol improvements, in return of a 55-year lease of the race track. One horse owner said their vision is to make Del Mar known as the horseman's race track.

Mike Pegram, a wealthy Del Mar horse owner, says it's up to horse breeders to save this declining industry, and this deal will put them in control of their destiny while benefiting the region financially.

At a news conference Wednesday afternoon Del Mar City Officials took pains to say this is not a Del Mar “only” deal. “A regional non-profit fair board for operations will be established, and the region will have a majority of appointments, and control of the board, not Del Mar,” said Mayor Earnest.

In addition to the 30-million from horse owners, and annual lease payments to operate the track, Del Mar will float a bond to finance the 120-million dollar purchase price. The City of Del Mar will protect local taxpayers by guaranteeing that no tax dollars will be spent on the purchase or operations of the fair grounds or racetrack.

Mayor Earnest also said none of the 300-plus events at the fairgrounds will be eliminated, but likely expanded.

When Senator Kehoe's effort to ram the bill thru the legislature failed, the secret deal was exposed, and brought outrage from the current fair board which would go out of business.

Tim Fennel is the fairgrounds CEO, he worries about the 5-thousand jobs, and the 400-million plus in economic impact to the area if private operators are brought in.
And the price seems low. The Orange County Fairgrounds is 147 acres, it doesn't have horse racing, and has one third the revenue we produce here, and they're selling for more than 100-million dollars. Del Mar is 350-plus acres and it's on the water.

This is by no means a done deal. Kehoe's second bill might also fail, and there are several things that have to be negotiated if it were to pass, including lease payments and how revenues are going to be divvied up.

Categories: KUSI