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Study of fairgrounds’ impacts kicks off

DEL MAR — A long-awaited study to determine the impacts events at the Del Mar Fairgrounds have on Del Mar and Solana Beach is finally getting underway.

At the March 16 meeting Del Mar City Council approved a $90,000 contract with Economic & Planning Systems, a land-economic consulting firm.

The study is a requirement of a February 2013 settlement between the two cities, the San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority and the 22nd District Agricultural Association, which governs the fairgrounds.

It will determine the costs associated with services such as law enforcement and emergency responders, capital replacement and maintenance of infrastructure provided by Solana Beach and Del Mar.

The study must also assess how much money the two cities receive from transient occupancy and sales taxes, off-track betting and all other receipts and income directly paid or generated by the activities.

“All in all it’s basically to look at the overall revenues that are generated associated with the fairgrounds’ presence and their operations, their events and then also to look at the cost associated with their presence and their events,” Kristen Crane, assistant to the city manager, said.

The cost for the study will be equally divided among Del Mar, Solana Beach and the 22nd DAA.

More than 300 events are held annually at the state-owned facility. The consultants will collect data from a representative sampling of those.

They will also conduct intercept surveys of attendees, vendors and employees at the five major ones: the National Horse Show, Good Guys Car Show, San Diego County Fair, summer horse races and Kaaboo, a music festival being held for the first time in September that is expected to attracted 120,000 people during its three-day run.

A request for proposals was issued Oct. 24. By the Dec. 5 deadline, nine applications were received. Four companies were interviewed. All three agencies agreed EPS was best-suited for the study.

The company performed economic analyses for the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds, Orange County Fairgrounds and Westworld, an equestrian center and special event facility in Scottsdale, Arizona.

“They were the team that we felt had the most relevant prior work experience,” Crane said. “EPS specifically has done projects like this with other large event centers and fairgrounds.

“Their proposal and overall approach most matched what we were looking for,” she added.

Data collection is slated to begin in mid-April, in time for the car show. Because a large crowd is expected at Kaaboo, the two cities and 22nd DAA wanted it included in the study.

Draft results are expected to be presented in late October or early November, Crane said.

“I’m glad we finally got this because this is part of our settlement agreement and it’s taken quite a long time to get to this point,” Councilman Don Mosier said. “I’m anxious to move forward with this study.”

“I’m very excited to get a good product but I also don’t have any illusions,” Councilman Dwight Worden said. “This has been so controversial and looked at so many times. There will be smart people who will pick at this if it isn’t done right. Even it’s done right there will be.”

Solana Beach City Council members are scheduled to vote on the agreement at their March 25 meeting.

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