City, state discuss fairgrounds sale
Not officially on market, but could change
Make the governor an offer he can’t refuse and he may just terminate state ownership of the Del Mar Fairgrounds.
While the property is not officially up for sale, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s press secretary Aaron McLear said all ideas are welcome.
“We’re always willing to talk to folks about creative solutions to balance our budget,” he said, noting California’s $20 billion deficit.
A sale of the Del Mar Fairgrounds would have to be approved by both the state Senate and Assembly, so nothing is immediately pending. However, the city of Del Mar has held several recent closed session meetings regarding a possible purchase.
“It’s no secret that we keep talking,” Councilwoman Crystal Crawford said. “It is public knowledge that the city is in discussions with the governor’s office.”
Neither Del Mar officials nor Fairgrounds CEO Tim Fennell said they knew what the property would sell for. Fennell said the highest bid for the Orange County fairgrounds, which did not sell, was $56 million. He said Del Mar is a different property with different situations, and also has $56 million in bond debt.
Del Mar Mayor Richard Earnest said city officials do not know how much the fairgrounds would cost because the state has kept them in the dark.
“They apparently have done an appraisal but have been unwilling to share it,” he said.
Fennell said the 22nd District Agricultural Association pays $4.8 million annually in bond debt service, and said that if anyone thinks events at the fairgrounds would help pay for the property, “they need to do their homework and look at our financials.”
Solana Beach Mayor Tom Campbell has expressed interest in partnering with Del Mar in purchasing the fairgrounds. Reached by phone, he brought up the idea of other neighboring cities forming a Joint Powers Authority to manage the property. Solana Beach, Del Mar, three other cities and San Diego County currently are part of a JPA that manages the San Dieguito River Park.
Campbell said at the very least, under a good neighbor policy, Solana Beach should be invited to the table with Del Mar if a possible purchase is being negotiated.
“I understand the fairgrounds is certainly within Del Mar’s jurisdiction, however the city of Solana Beach is at least equally as impacted if not more than the city of Del Mar by the impacts from traffic, the fair, the races and special events,” he said.
Officials from both cities have stressed the importance of keeping the fairgrounds publicly owned.
The fairgrounds are currently managed by the 22nd District Agricultural Association, a self-funded organization that operates under state regulations. It is not part of the general fund. If the fairgrounds were purchased, the board would cease its authority. Fennell, who has managed stadiums and arenas around the country, said whether he continues as CEO would be at the discretion of the new ownership.
“In my case from a personal standpoint it would kind of depend who owns it,” he said. “You can read between the lines with that one.”
- Del Mar Fairgrounds sale nixed
- Fairgrounds officials try to sell naming rights
- Del Mar City Council may buy Fairgrounds
- Groups come together to oppose fairgrounds’ sale
- Del Mar to explore buying fairgrounds
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