Fairgrounds ‘considering all options’ against KAABOO

Sheryl Crow performs at KAABOO Del Mar on Sept. 15, 2019.
(K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The Del Mar Fairgrounds “is considering all options” regarding its contract for the big-ticket, three-day KAABOO music festival that announced last Sunday, Sept. 15, it will move to Petco Park in 2020, fairgrounds CEO Tim Fennell said Friday, Sept. 20.

KAABOO’s contract with the fairgrounds, where the event has been held for the past five years, reportedly prohibited the owners from opening a similar event within one year within a 75-mile radius of the fairgrounds. However, it was unclear Friday whether that clause may have been violated.

Fennel said by email Friday he was out of the office and did not provide a copy of the contract.

The venue change was announced Sept. 15. The event at Petco is set to start Sept. 18, 2020, which could give a three-day buffer beyond the owner’s obligation, depending on the wording of the contract.

Also, a change of ownership announced just three days after the new venue could further complicate the obligations of the contract.

“We only acquired the assets of KAABOO,” said Crissa Requate, a representative of the new owner Virgin Fest, the music festival arm of Richard Branson’s worldwide Virgin brand, in a statement she emailed Friday, Sept. 20. “Accordingly, all liabilities remained with the previous owners, so we are not aware of their obligations.”

Virgin Fest bought the event from co-founders Bryan E. Gordon and Seth Wolkov of the Madison Companies, LLC, a Denver-based private investment holding company.

The earliest the fairgrounds’ board of directors could consider any action against KAABOO, legal or otherwise, will be at its Oct. 8 board meeting.

KAABOO quickly became one of the biggest events at Del Mar. This year and last it sold out well in advance with average daily attendance of more than 35,000 music fans.

That was a big crowd for San Diego County’s smallest city, and in the early years there were numerous complaints about noise and traffic.

A hotline for people to call with KAABOO complaints had 123 calls from 91 people in 2015, according to a 2016 news story. The numbers were down to 56 calls from 46 people in 2016.

The 2019 headliners included the Dave Matthews Band, Duran Duran, Mumford & Sons, Boyz II Men and Kings of Leon. Last year included the Foo Fighters, Katy Perry and Imagine Dragons. The festival also features comedy, art and upscale culinary offerings.

— Phil Diehl is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune