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Pandemic Forcing Del Mar Fairgrounds To Face Tough Changes

Horses being walked in the paddock area of the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Nov. 12, ...

Photo by Roland Lizarondo

Above: Horses being walked in the paddock area of the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Nov. 12, 2020.

The cancellation of the San Diego County Fair and other major events due to COVID-19 has placed the Del Mar Fairgrounds in an unstable financial position.

By the end of the year, the state-owned property is expected to see a 90% loss in forecasted earnings.

Listen to this story by Tania Thorne.

“COVID certainly has not helped in terms of things, but we're just continuing to work through it on a daily basis really,” Del Mar Fairgrounds interim CEO Carlene Moore said.

The loss of revenue brought the need to layoff a large portion of the fairgrounds’ staff. Currently, only 15% of staff is still there to manage the events that can operate with COVID restrictions.

The grounds continue to hold crowd-less horse races, drive-in movies and concerts, and retail events such as Snow Jam, all with COVID restrictions for visitors.

“Today we know that drive-thru events, drive-in events, activities of that nature — open space, these are all going to be key and important things in the near future and for the foreseeable future,” Moore said.

Reported by Tania Thorne , Video by Roland Lizarondo

She said drive-thru Scream Zone was very successful and they are excited to launch the Holidays in Your Car drive-thru light show beginning Dec. 5.

“A little bit of that return-to-normal in terms of activity. Just not necessarily return-to-normal in terms of crowds,” said Moore.

The San Diego County Fair is also expected to make a comeback next summer, but Moore said it will include some changes to implement state COVID-19 regulations.

“We can reshape events that we’ve had historically to fit into what is allowed to happen in terms of activities, depending on what the public health orders are at the time,” she said.

Another change that could be coming to the fairgrounds is a proposal to build affordable housing on the property.

The city of Del Mar currently has no affordable housing and faces state penalties. Some proposed sites would be on the outskirts of the fairgrounds, where residential use wouldn't interfere with the use of the fairgrounds and future events.

Moore says It could be another three to four years before anything is set in stone.

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Photo of Tania Thorne

Tania Thorne
North County Reporter

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