Del Mar council OKs $30K to join study of fairgrounds’ economic impact on cities

Del Mar will soon learn exactly how the Del Mar Fairgrounds benefits and affects the city.

In a 4-0 vote with Deputy Mayor Sherryl Parks absent, the Del Mar City Council on March 16 approved an agreement with Economic & Planning Systems to conduct an economic impact study of the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

In November 2012, the board of the 22nd District Agricultural Association, which operates the state-owned fairgrounds, voted to settle a lawsuit filed against the district by Del Mar, Solana Beach and the San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority over expansion plans at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

Under the terms of the February 2013 settlement agreement, the board agreed to a joint study to determine the actual costs for services provided as well as revenue generated by the district for the neighboring cities.

“I’m glad we finally got this, because this is part of our settlement agreement,” said Councilman Don Mosier. “It’s taken quite a long time to get to this point, and I’m anxious to move forward with this study.”

The Del Mar Fairgrounds occupies 340 acres in north coastal San Diego County, 80 percent of which is located in Del Mar, next to Solana Beach. Every year the fairgrounds hosts about 300 events, attracting about 3 million visitors annually, including the annual county fair, thoroughbred races and hundreds of special events and trade shows.

Jointly funded and managed by Del Mar, Solana Beach and the 22nd District Agricultural Association, the study will assess the overall net economic impact of the activities of the Del Mar Fairgrounds on infrastructure, operations and services within the cities of Del Mar and Solana Beach. As part of the study, firm Economic & Planning Systems will conduct surveys at five major events, including the county fair, summer races, National Horse Show, Good Guys Car Show and Kaaboo music festival.

“I’m very excited to get a good product, but I also don’t have any illusions,” said Councilman Dwight Worden. “This has been so controversial and been looked at so many times, there will be smart people who will pick at this if it isn’t done right.”

The study is expected to cost $86,250, but Del Mar, Solana Beach and the district will each set aside $30,000 for the project. City staff expects to present results to the council in late October or early November.