Del Mar Horsepark prepares for ‘grand reopening’ this month

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

The property closed suddenly about two years ago until wastewater management issues could be resolved

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Del Mar Horsepark will reopen in July, culminating a years-long process after the facility suddenly closed two years ago because of wastewater management issues, forcing the cancellation of events and the horses that were boarded there to move somewhere else.

A longtime home to horse shows and other events, the 65-acre horsepark is located about 1.5 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.

The slate of events this summer includes a July 15 grand reopening event with free admission (but $20 for parking), food, live music and other festivities beginning at 4 p.m. The lineup of shows include the HITS Del Mar Sunshine Classic from July 12 to 16, a county hunter/jumper show from July 22-23, Del Mar Summer Festival I from Aug. 2 to 6, Summer Festival II from Aug. 9 to 13, Summer Classic I from Aug. 23 to 27, Summer Classic II from Aug. 30 to Sept. 3, and a fall lineup that includes the Del Mar Fall Preview Channel II from Sept. 22 to 24 and Del Mar Fall Classic from Sept. 27 to Oct. 1.

The Del Mar Fairgrounds Board of Directors, which oversees the state-owned property, decided to lease the property to a company that would assume responsibility for rectifying those issues. Last year, the board awarded the lease to special events company HITS LLC. The request for proposal mentioned an estimated $4-6 million for the necessary water improvements, although reconfiguration of the site could alter that estimate. Del Mar Fairgorunds spokesperson Tristan Hallman said HITS has not provided a final cost yet.

A Change.org petition by Friends of Del Mar Horsepark collected more than 17,000 signatures by supporters who wanted to reopen the horsepark as soon as possible.

“Our whole campaign from the beginning was to find somebody to lease the place and refurbish it, including the water, and run horse shows out of it and include other activities,” said Carla Echols Hayes, one of the leaders of grassroots group Friends of Del Mar Horsepark. “All of this research and all of this work has come together in a positive way.”

A horse exercising at Del Mar Horsepark prior to its closure.
A horse exercising at Del Mar Horsepark prior to its closure.
(K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Hayes was also appointed to a six-member horsepark advisory board to focus on “the development and the future of the Del Mar Horsepark,” according to the HITS website.

“All of this research and all of this work has come together in a positive way,” Hayes said. “This was really worth the effort for lots and lots and lots of reasons.”

Dale Harvey, general manager of the horsepark, said in a statement that “the team is hard at work preparing” the venue for the grand reopening.

“The improvements that are underway will offer exhibitors a world-class experience at one of the most beautiful venues in the country,” Harvey said.

Tom Struzzieri, a part owner and director of HITS, has presided over multiple facilities throughout the country, including two in California.

“The benefit of being a lifelong horseman, rather than just an investor, gives me a unique perspective in not only developing and designing facilities, but also in acting as a horseman in the coordination of events,” he said in a statement last year after HITS won the lease to horsepark. “These skills will be instrumental after witnessing the challenges the sport has experienced this past year. I look forward to starting the project of renovating one of the most iconic horse facilities in the country, and then producing some of California’s most outstanding events.”

Updates

6:06 p.m. July 6, 2023: Updated with a cost estimate from a fairgrounds spokesperson

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