Overflow fair parking could be at Del Mar Horsepark

Overflow fair parking could be at Del Mar Horsepark
Officials from the 22nd District Agricultural Association are considering Del Mar Horsepark, a 65-acre equestrian facility about three miles east of the fairgrounds, as a possible site to accommodate additional overflow parking. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek

DEL MAR — With the permanent loss of 1,250 parking spaces beginning with the 2016 San Diego County Fair, officials from the 22nd District Agricultural Association are considering Del Mar Horsepark as a possible site to accommodate additional overflow parking.

Director Russ Penniman updated his colleagues on the proposal during the Oct. 13 meeting.

Horsepark is a 65-acre equestrian facility located about three miles east of the fairgrounds, at the corner of El Camino Real and Via de la Valle in the San Dieguito River Valley.

The 22nd DAA, which governs the Del Mar Fairgrounds, purchased the property a few decades ago, primarily for overflow parking during the fair.

That use continues, with no events held at the site during that time. The rest of the year it is used for equestrian boarding and dozens of horse shows.

Horsepark includes full-service accommodations for equestrian events of all levels, with onsite catering, equipment rental, security, RV hook-ups and parking.

It offers two grass jumping stadiums with seating for 1,320, a covered, lighted arena, four show rings, 400 permanent show stalls, a dressage ring and four training rings.

Permanent box and pipe stalls are also available for year-round boarding, as well as qualified, professional training from beginning to Olympian levels.

Penniman said financial information on the site is presented in one financial statement.

“So right now we’re pulling apart the financials to see how each one is doing,” he said.

Penniman and Director Lee Haydu recently toured the property “to better understand how we use it,” he said. “It’s a horse facility so there’s perpetual maintenance. We want to see how much revenue each activity is providing and what the cost for each is.”

Penniman said some of the barns are coming to their end of life. “Before we replace them or build more we want to see if it would make more sense to shrink their footprint to accommodate more parking.”

They are also evaluating and comparing the cost of paying for overflow parking elsewhere.

“At the end of the day we can’t be losing money running the operation, and I don’t think we are,” he said. “But we need to either tighten up on the expenses or increase the revenue so both activities are making money. And we are looking to see if we should replace some of the facilities or use the space for parking.”

The parking loss is a result of a legal settlement between the 22nd DAA and the California Coastal Commission, the adjacent cities of Del Mar and Solana Beach and the San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority.

Fairgrounds officials agreed to convert an overflow parking lot just south of the state-owned venue back to wetlands in exchange for continued use of a parcel east of Jimmy Durante Boulevard for year-round parking and temporary events such as the pumpkin patch and Christmas tree sales.

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