DEL MAR — Council members “conceptually” allowed the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club to install a 16,500-square-foot tent at Powerhouse Park for two weeks during the 2017 Breeders’ Cup, but stopped short of granting a permit.
The request at the Dec. 19 meeting was the first of a two-part process to approve the temporary structure, billed as the “Barn at the Beach,” on the oceanfront property.
The Breeders’ Cup, considered the Super Bowl of horse racing, attracts owners, trainers and fans from around the world. In November it will be held at the Del Mar Racetrack for the first time.
Although there are only two days of racing, on Nov. 3 and 4, the DMTC, which is hosting the annual meet, is planning a week of off-site events leading up to the races for visitors and the local community.
The 80-by-200-foot tent will be about 26 feet high at the eastern elevation of the sloped site. It will accommodate 1,000 people and be used until 10 p.m.
By comparison, the summer twilight concerts hosted by the Del Mar Foundation and held at Powerhouse Park attract about 2,500 people.
The tent will be in place for no more than 15 days — from Oct. 25 to Nov. 8 — including about four days to set it up and three to take it down. Existing pathways for access to the beach will remain open.
The rare two-step permit process is being used because details of the events are not yet known.
Knowing the tent will be allowed means the thoroughbred club can move forward to get funding and schedule public and private events, which will be a combination of free and ticketed.
Plans for part two of the permit process will be submitted as soon as possible but no later than July and will address issues such as public benefits, park restoration, temporary street closures, parking management, noise, signs and lighting.
Craig Dado, DMTC’s chief marketing officer, said about two-thirds of Breeders’ Cup attendees will come from out of town. He said the idea of the tent, which came from a Del Mar Village Association board member, is two-fold.
The first goal is to get people into Del Mar restaurants and retail shops. The other is to get the Breeders’ Cup to return San Diego. Because of the national horse racing schedule, many of its board members have never been to Del Mar.
“When we thought about it, what better place to have a number of these events than right on the beach at Powerhouse Park with these iconic views?” he said. “Frankly, we want to wow these people.”
Ed Yuskiewicz and Robin Crabtree, the only residents to speak, said they support the Breeders’ Cup and the tent, but they have concerns.
“It seems like a pretty good idea but 15 days seems extreme,” Yuskiewicz said. “We really have to look at the parking management for those large crowds of people and how it’s going to impact the residential areas down at the beach.”
“I think this sounds really great and wonderful,” Crabtree said. “Two days of racing but seven days of total activities and then eight days to set up the tent, I just feel like that’s an excessive amount of days to have this huge structure in the middle of Powerhouse Park.
“Yes, you’re going to have north open and south open and the walkway on the west, but you’re still going to have this monstrosity in the middle and there is actually view obstruction,” she added. “I’d like to see if we can maybe shorten the time.”
Council members also said they support the events and tent, but they had issues with the two-part permit process.
“I definitely would like to support the Breeders’ Cup and would love to have an opportunity to show off our city and our local businesses to people from around the world,” Councilwoman Ellen Haviland said. “It’s hard to get too excited when you don’t know what the ramifications are going to be with lighting and parking and noise.
“But I’m inclined to give them some leeway because it’s temporary and it’s their first time coming to Del Mar and I think it’s a great opportunity for the city,” she added.
“I’m excited about the Breeders’ Cup,” Councilman Dwight Worden said. “I want to support it. I want to see it succeed. I think it will be great for Del Mar.
“I have problems with the application,” he added. “So I’m looking for a way to get to yes.
Splitting it into two phases is really troubling.”
Their solution was to conceptually approve the tent. They also directed staff to work with the DMTC to bring back both permit applications together with more details as soon as possible.