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Del Mar Fair Board Gives Go-Ahead To New Entertainment Facility

Photo by Alison St John

Solana Beach City Councilwoman Jewel Edson and Del Mar Mayor Terry Sinnott share their concerns of the proposed Surfside entertainment venue at the Del Mar Fairground Board of Directors meeting, May 23, 2017.

The Del Mar Fairground Board of Directors voted unanimously Tuesday to develop a music venue inside the Surfside satellite wagering facility, in order to increase revenues for the state-owned operation.

The satellite wagering facility was built in 1991 to accommodate 5,000 gamblers, and is considered California's largest and most luxurious satellite wagering facility. But today it attracts only a few hundred people a day.

At the meeting, board member David Watson referred to a Fitch report of horse racing activities at Del Mar, showing revenues falling from $5 million, to $2.5 million, to $1 million over the past three years. The new entertainment venue could bring in more than $2 million a year, according to a feasibility study by Cal State San Marcos business graduates.

To build the theater, the board plans to borrow $11 million, which the feasibility study suggests could be paid back within six years if the venue hosts 80 or 90 events a year. The board said events might be held there at any time of day and would not be limited to concerts.

Del Mar Mayor Terry Sinnott and Solana Beach City Councilwoman Jewel Edson expressed concerns about the need for better traffic management for the entertainment venue. They said that, though the satellite wagering facility was designed for 5,000 people, those patrons would come and go throughout the day, whereas the 1,900-seat theater would let out patrons all at once, risking snarled traffic on city streets.

Edson also commented on the $13 cost of parking at the fairgrounds, which she said encourages patrons to park off-site, on city streets.

Watson said events of around 2,000 people are small by fairground standards and traffic management should not be a problem.

Both Del Mar and Solana Beach benefit from sales tax and transient occupancy tax related to fairground activity.

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