DEL MAR — Council members at the April 17 meeting approved the necessary permits for a scaled-down version of the “Barn at the Beach,” a temporary tent that will be set up at Powerhouse Park to hold events before and during the Breeders’ Cup this fall.
“We want each and every community that hosts the Breeders’ Cup to put its own stamp on things,” Breeders’ Cup President Craig Fravel said. “So when the original concept of the ‘Barn at the Beach’ was brought to us … we were very enthusiastic.”
Fravel said hosting a variety of events “right there where the turf does meet the surf” will give visitors a reason to come into Del Mar “and really let everyone know what’s special about this place.”
In December the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, which is hosting what is considered the Super Bowl of horse racing for the first time Nov. 3 and 4, proposed installing for 15 days a 16,500-square-foot structure that would accommodate up to 1,000 people.
It would have stood 26 feet tall and taken up about 41 percent of the lawn.
Following that presentation, residents and members of the Parks and Recreation Committee expressed concerns about the size and height of the tent, how long it would be in place, the portion of the park that would be unavailable to the public, restoration of the grassy area, parking, traffic, signage, lighting and noise.
The revised plans call for a 7,000-square-foot tent with a 1,620-square-foot deck area and a maximum height of about 24 feet.
It will accommodate up to 500 people, take up approximately 22 percent of the park and be in place for 12 days, from Oct. 26 through Nov 6.
Events will be held Oct. 29 through Nov. 4. They include a free Breeders’ Cup cocktail party Oct. 30, during which the gate each horse will start from will be drawn by local and worldwide celebrities, and a free viewing party Nov. 4 for those who can’t attend the race.
The two ticketed events are a Taste of San Diego, sponsored by the Del Mar Village Association, Nov. 2 and an opening day welcome party Nov. 3.
The Del Mar Foundation is hosting a free event Nov. 1, with details still being discussed. The tent is currently available Oct. 29 and 31.
All activities must comply with the city’s noise and lighting ordinances and will end by 10 p.m.
It is estimated the tent could generate $11,250 in permit fees, however, council members agreed to waive those for Del Mar nonprofit organizations and DMVA.
Former Councilman Don Mosier noted DMVA pays the city as a contract provider for marketing services.
“So to me it makes absolutely no sense to charge permit fees for an event which was organized at the behest of the city by the DMVA,” he said. “This is making DMVA pay twice for a job we asked them to do.”
Bob Gans from the Del Mar Foundation said if his organization had to pay the $1,000 permit fee he would have to cancel the event.
Fravel said the Breeders’ Cup will make a donation to the city or a nonprofit.
According to the staff report, most of the other concerns have been addressed.
Leif Dickinson, DMTC’s turf and landscape superintendent, will “personally be overseeing the grass at Powerhouse Park to make sure the impact of the tent is minimal and that it is returned to its previous state,” said Craig Dado, Del Mar Thoroughbred Club’s executive vice president.
To coordinate parking and traffic, the Breeders’ Cup hired Transportation Management Services, which supervised traffic and parking for the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines and the Breeders’ Cup when it was at Keeneland Race Track in Kentucky.
“I do want you to understand how sensitive we are to the traffic issues,” Fravel said. “We don’t want our guests to be sitting in traffic. And if your residents are sitting in traffic that means our guests are sitting in traffic as well.”
Councilmen Dwight Worden and Dave Druker said they had concerns when the tent was initially proposed but are satisfied with the changes that were made so it complies with city codes.
Druker’s suggestion to expand the noticing area was supported by his colleagues. Council also added a requirement to monitor and evaluate events held at the tent.
Most residents who weighed in said they support the tent.
Sharon Hilliard said media coverage of the Breeders’ Cup and the events leading up to it will “put Del Mar on the map like we haven’t been before.”
“It’s going to change how people perceive Del Mar and it can’t do anything but help our merchants and our citizens,” she added.
There were a few skeptics.
Barbara Anderson sent a note to the city stating her objection “to having a tent, for private purposes, on public parklands for 13 days.”
“I’m happy that the Breeders’ Cup is coming to the Del Mar track,” Bill Michalsky said. “I just have concerns about use of Powerhouse Park. I don’t think that everything has been vetted.
“I really don’t see how it’s going to be done easily,” he added. “So maybe I’ll be surprised. I wish them well but I have misgivings about the event there.”