Del Mar Council OKs Resolution to Buy Fairgrounds


Marlena Chavira-Medford

Staff Writer

During a Dec. 1 special session, Del Mar City Council approved a resolution of intent regarding the city’s potential purchase of the currently state-owned Del Mar Fairgrounds.

A bill authorizing the sale of the fairgrounds was introduced to state senate more than a month ago, though that bill expired in late November. A new bill will be introduced by senator Christine Kehoe Monday, Dec. 6.

The resolution adopted by council clarifies some of the details of the possible purchase, like the governance of the property, which would be overseen by a nonprofit group with representatives from Del Mar, Solana Beach, the city of San Diego, the county of San Diego and the San Dieguito Rivery Valley JPA. The city of Del Mar would not have a majority of those seats, as was initially proposed. Del Mar Mayor Richard Earnest said that change came about based on public feedback.

“We’ve modified and adjusted accordingly,” he said, then added “and the make-up of that board could change again.”

He said the goal is to have a board that represents regional control, so representatives from more agencies could be added, if deemed appropriate.

The resolution also states that all racetrack and fairgrounds employees’ labor agreements will be upheld, and that all existing compensation and benefits will be preserved.

The document also states that the annual fair and horseracing will remain a top priority, as will preservation of the nearby San Dieguito Lagoon and River Valley. It also states that no local tax dollars will be used for the $120 million purchase.

If the sale is authorized by state senate, Del Mar still has the right to back out of the deal, should it decide to after its due diligence. If Del Mar decides to move forward with the purchase, it will be funded through a combination bonds secured by fairgrounds and racetrack revenues, borrowing from the state and a $30 million investment from a group of horsemen led by part-time Del Mar resident Michael Pegram.

At a Dec. 1 press conference at Del Mar City Hall, Pegram told the audience Del Mar was the “crown jewel of California horse racing,” and this purchase would help “keep Del Mar the jewel it is.”

“Del Mar will be known as the horseman’s racetrack. That is our vision, and that is our goal,” he said.