Report: Del Mar's landlord faces a grim year in 2021

Report: Del Mar's landlord faces a grim year in 2021
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

The landlord for the Del Mar racetrack faces an uncertain 2021.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that Del Mar Fairgrounds officials canceled all entertainment contracts for 2021, including grandstand and midway shows for the annual San Diego County Fair. They also canceled equestrian events at the Del Mar Horsepark, two miles east of the fairgrounds. People who board their horses there will have to stable their animals elsewhere after March 31.

It's not clear whether the steps will have any effect on Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, which operates on property leased from the fairgrounds. The track's recently completed five-week fall meet posted total handle of $195.9 million, up 33 percent from last season — a record for a non-Breeders' Cup fall meet. The track will get a boost from hosting the Breeders' Cup in 2021.

The report notes that the 22nd District Agricultural Association, which runs the fairgrounds and is known as the Del Mar Fair Board of Directors, is funded almost entirely by revenue from events held there. Suspension of crowd gatherings because of the COVID pandemic reduced revenue by about 90 percent.

But the horse park continued to generate revenue, according to the report, and the suspension of operations there took people by surprise. Officials said they might move some equestrian events to the fairgrounds.

A bigger concern to the fair board is a requirement by the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board that the fairgrounds curtail the groundwater pollution that results from boarding, training and showing horses there, according to the report.

“Continuing with an equestrian presence at the horse-park property would require a significant and immediate investment of funds to address water quality requirements, which is simply not possible given the dire effects that the COVID pandemic has had on the fairgrounds’ revenues,” 22nd DAA board President Richard Valdez said in an email, according to the report.

He said the fair board will seek state assistance for operational support.

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