KAABOO music festival set to return to Del Mar Fairgrounds in 2024

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

Board members at the fairgrounds approved the deal after questions about the festival’s legal issues and other struggles since announcing a move to Petco Park that never happened


Four years after its surprise announcement about a partnership with the Padres and a move to Petco Park, the KAABOO music festival has a deal to return to its original home at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in September 2024.

Board members at the fairgrounds approved a deal with Festival Licensing and Acquisition Corporation, which acquired the rights to hold KAABOO-branded events, on Sept. 12 to bring the festival back next year. The contract includes four one-year renewal options. Terms include $250,000 paid to the Del Mar Fairgrounds or 3% of net revenue from ticket sales, whichever is higher, as well as 40% of parking revenue and $5 per concession ticket sold.

Specific dates and the lineup are to be determined.

Mark Terry, one of the leaders of the corporation, said during the meeting that “it made sense to bring it back to its inaugural home where it had performed so well.”

Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, it will be the first KAABOO since 2019 in Del Mar. The festival never made it inside Petco Park, but it has been mired in a breach of contract lawsuit with the Padres. There have also been complaints from ticket holders who haven’t been refunded for tickets to festival dates in downtown that never happened.

Del Mar Fairgrounds CEO Carlene Moore said that the Padres gave the fairgrounds clearance to proceed with a contract for KAABOO.

With that recent history, and recalling how “shocked” they were four years ago when KAABOO organizers abruptly announced they were leaving town, Del Mar fair board members wanted some assurances from the new organizers.

“We really have to think about this in its entirety, because it did come back on us negatively,” board member Lisa Barkett said. “I would love to have KAABOO, I enjoy KAABOO, I just want to make sure that it’s done in a way where this fairgrounds is protected.”

The board president, Frederick Schenk, said that communication between the fairgrounds and KAABOO’s co-founders (who sold it in 2019) were “not as transparent as I would’ve liked from the beginning” during its initial run from 2015-19.

“Those are fool-me-once moments,” he said. “I don’t want to be fooled again.”

Schenk added that he wanted more transparency about KAABOO’s financial backing to ensure the viability of its business model.

Terry, whose roles with FLAAC include corporate development and strategic planning, said “there is a certain amount of confidentiality and privilege associated with the nature and the identity of certain investors.”

“So I wouldn’t expect to be giving you a list of individuals and capital commitments,” he added, “but we certainly could provide investors who have backed us in the past and who are ready to back us moving forward.”

In response to questions and concerns from board members, Deputy Attorney General Josh Caplan said the contract allows the fairgrounds to be named on an insurance policy that would provide reimbursement to ticket holders if organizers unexpectedly canceled the event.

“Is the risk zero? No,” Caplan said. “But the risk is never zero for any event on this property. Even if the promoter shows up and puts on an event and there’s an incident, the risk is never zero. But we did build in protections like we do with every contract on the indemnification side and the insurance side.”

Board members also wanted to account for the long list of complaints that nearby residents in Del Mar and Solana Beach had during KAABOO’s initial five-year run, such as noise, traffic and littering. Fair board member Don Mosier, who was on the Del Mar City Council when KAABOO first started, said improving traffic conditions when festival events concluded each night during its three-day runs had been a particular struggle.

Chris Racan, who has been involved with KAABOO from the beginning and handles production and talent, said they would learn from the past.

“The lessons learned and some of the things that tripped us up in the early years that we solved going up to 2019, luckily we get to benefit from a lot of those lessons learned and take those with us and make sure this event goes off without any issues,” he said.