Del Mar Fairgrounds views audit report for COVID-plagued 2020

Del Mar Fairgrounds
(San Diego Union-Tribune )

The Del Mar Fairgrounds board of directors commended a “clean” audit that was presented during their Nov. 17 meeting.

“The only thing unusual about 2020 was COVID,” said Adam Odom, an accountant at LSL, the firm that completed the audit that covered the calendar year ending in 2020.

The operating expenses at the fairgrounds were a little more than $40 million, compared to operating revenue of a little more than $25 million, according to the audit report. With another $2.4 million in nonoperating revenues, the loss on the year was approximately $17.7 million.

“That is not unusual,” Odom said. “We audited multiple fairgrounds and venues, and for 2020 having a loss is not unusual from what we’ve seen.”

Fair board member Richard Valdez, chair of the board’s Finance Committee, praised staff for managing the state-owned venue during the pandemic, which led to the cancellation of two San Diego County Fairs and multiple other large events that account for most of the revenue at the fairgrounds. (They did manage to host Homegrown Fun, a scaled-down version of the fair, in 2021.)

“2020 was tumultuous, to say the least,” Valdez said.

The fairgrounds’ long-term debt includes money borrowed to finance and refinance the cost of its new 1,900-seat concert venue. The $23.5 million, including principal and interest, is scheduled to be paid off by 2048.

The venue will open Feb. 3 with a concert by reggae star Ziggy Marley.

“We’re especially proud to partner with the great people at the legendary Belly Up venue, a long-time San Diego music company, who will undoubtedly curate the new room with local sensitivity,” Del Mar Fairgrounds CEO Carlene Moore said in a written statement to the San Diego Union Tribune. “And what better performer to start off the music at The Sound than a legend like Ziggy Marley?”