Fairgrounds stable despite recession
The Del Mar Fairgrounds finished 2008 in the black, despite an unstable economy that was spiraling into recession.
A balance sheet released Feb. 10 by the 22nd District Agricultural Association, a state agency that runs the fairgrounds, shows revenues in calendar year 2008 exceeding expenditures by 2 percent.
The annual county fair, special events, racetrack revenue, concerts and food concessions at the state-owned fairgrounds brought in $58.6 million, while expenditures tallied nearly $55.9 million, according to a balance sheet submitted Tuesday to the fairgrounds’ board of directors.
Financial matters dominated the board’s monthly meeting Feb. 10.
Two directors defended the board’s November decision in a closed session to award chief executive officer Tim Fennell a 29 percent pay raise. The board’s action, which was never discussed in public, increased Fennell’s annual salary to $186,120 from $143,544. The pay raise is pending approval of the state Department of Food and Agriculture, which oversees all state-run fairgrounds.
Board chairman Kelly Burt and board member Barry Nussbaum lauded Fennell’s record of accomplishments after Carlsbad resident Richard Eckfield complained that the “highly paid” chief executive had refused to meet with him to discuss the installation of a seasonal rail platform that would relieve traffic congestion at the summertime fair.
Burt said the three-week-long event is one of the “most successful fairs in the country” because of Fennell’s solid leadership and a support staff that “doesn’t miss a beat.”
Nussbaum also praised Fennell for leading “an incredible team” of staffers whose work to promote and present the 2008 Del Mar Fair won 14 first place awards from the Western Fairs Association.
Matt Clay, manager of a miniature golf concession at the fairgrounds that was rebuilt and reopened last year, told the board that the facility realized a significant increase in revenue during 2008.
Clay said the rebuilt miniature golf facility brought in $468,000 in revenues, with a net profit of $167,000. Golfers logged 60,923 rounds of miniature golf in the past year, compared with fewer than 10,000 rounds annually for the old course, which was in disrepair.
Chairman Burt credited Fennell, the fairgrounds’ CEO, with foresight in pushing for rebuilding the miniature golf course.
In his report to the board, Fennell said the 18 special events at the fairgrounds this February were nine fewer than the number held during the same month last year. That translates to a decline in revenue from $121,691 last year to $80,490 this year, he said.
“We are seeing the effects of the economy and its challenges,” Fennell said. “But we’re working hard to overcome that.”
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