After one ‘nonresponsive’ proposal, Del Mar Fairgrounds will reissue RFP for Horsepark lessee

Del Mar Horsepark
Del Mar Horsepark
(K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The search continues for a lessee to take over Del Mar Horsepark.

After an initial request for proposal (RFP) yielded one “nonresponsive” submission, Del Mar Fairgrounds officials announced during a Nov. 16 board meeting that they will issue a new RFP by Thanksgiving.

Located on 65 acres about three miles east of the Del Mar Fairgrounds at the corner of El Camino Real and Via de la Valle in the San Dieguito River Valley, Horsepark has been closed for almost one year. The venue requires infrastructure updates to satisfy Regional Water Quality Control Board requirements. A plan to implement approximately $3-4 million of wastewater management measures would allow it to reopen.

After considering a few options for how to reopen the venue, the fairgrounds board of directors decided several months ago to seek a lessee.

The lone response that fairgrounds officials received from their first RFP had “a technicality that resulted in us having to deem it nonresponsive,” fairgrounds CEO Carlene Moore said.

That response was submitted by horse show organizer Dale Harvey, who said during public comment that he was rejected on a “one-word technicality” and was “extremely disappointed in the process.”

“It just seems to me that maybe there was no intent to award a contract on this RFP to start with,” he said to board members. “I hope I’m wrong about that.”

“I will just say you are wrong,” said G. Joyce Rowland, vice president of the fair board. “I think the intent is absolutely to move forward and to have horse operations resume at the Horsepark.”

Harvey said in an interview that he submitted his proposal in October and then interviewed with fairgrounds officials.

“It went very well, I thought,” he said.

Harvey said he received an email a couple weeks later that said the proposal had been rejected because it did not properly acknowledge an addendum that was part of the request for proposal.

“It’s very strange and very weird, but they can do whatever they want, I guess,” he said.

Harvey also said he thought the fairgrounds “owed the public an extensive explanation” of their plan going forward.

“Here we’ve just had that facility closed for a full year, and we’ve had an RFP and they for some reason rejected it,” he said. “What’s going on? What’s their timeline?”

The fairgrounds did not respond to a request for further comment before press time about the “technicality” that tanked the proposal.

Harvey said he “probably will” respond to the second RFP.

“I’ll probably scratch out that word and write over the top of it in red ink the word that they would like and send it back to them,” he said. “It’s discouraging, that’s for sure.”