It’s goodbye, North County, hello, downtown San Diego, for KAABOO Del Mar.
The upscale music, comedy, art and culinary festival is being renamed KAABOO San Diego and will relocate to Petco Park in 2020 after being held for its first five years at the Del Mar Racetrack and adjacent fairgrounds.
The move follows the signing of a multi-year agreement by the producers of KAABOO and the San Diego Padres.
The first edition of KAABOO San Diego will take place next year, from Sept. 18-20, and will be held in and around the downtown baseball stadium.
Discounted early-bird passes for the 2020 festival went are now on sale at the new website, kaaboosd.com, and current KAABOO VIP pass holders and Padres season ticket holders will have access to a special “loyalty discount.”
The three-day KAABOO Del Mar festival, which concluded its 2019 edition Sept. 15, sold out in advance this year and last year, with an average daily attendance of at least 35,000.
Relaunching at Petco Park — which in June drew 42,000 people to a sold out concert by Paul McCartney — is being touted as a major league move by both KAABOO and the Padres.
“This is a long-term partnership and will take our signature KAABOO experience to a whole new level,” the festival’s managing partner, Jason Felts, told the San Diego Union-Tribune Saturday, Sept. 14, prior to Sunday evening’s official launch of KAABOO San Diego.
“We wanted to grow and are excited about the infrastructure that Petco Park affords as a world-class facility in a safe, clean environment. The Padres share the same sensibilities as us about customer service. KAABOO San Diego will be the same experience as KAABOO Del Mar, and the same sunset, in a new home. I love the idea, not only from a venue perspective, but because of the vibrancy of downtown.”
Felts’ enthusiasm is shared by Padres President of Business Operations Erik Greupner.
“We have been very intentional in creating world-class event experiences at Petco Park,” Greupner told the Union-Tribune Sunday morning., Sept. 15 “So KAABOO’s decision is really a validation of what we created and a fulfillment of our promise to the people of San Diego that this publicly funded ballpark will (have) more than just baseball.
“Our focus with KAABOO is taking what is already a great festival and growing it, in terms of (attendance). Having KAABOO in the setting of Petco Park and the surrounding ballpark district — with all the hotel options, public transit and the ‘walkability’ factor — is off the charts.”
KAABOO San Diego performances will take place next year on the stadium playing field and on the recently built Sycuan Stage at the Park, as well as on stages in the adjacent Lexus Premier Lot and Tailgate Lot. Two of KAABOO Del Mar’s largest performance areas last weekend, the USAA Grandview Stage and the BMW Encinitas Trestles Stage, are in the parking lot in front of the racetrack and fairgrounds.
One possible KAABOO attraction that might not make the move to the festival’s new downtown San Diego location is the Bask Pool Club, an elevated swimming pool and sand-filled lounge area that overlooks the festival’s largest stage.
“That remains to be seen. We haven’t quite finished mapping everything out for next year yet,” said KAABOO’s Felts, who is also the founder and CEO of Virgin Produced, which in 2016 became the festival’s “official content partner.”
Felts said it was purely coincidental that the new Wonderfront San Diego, a three-day music festival that debuts in late November, will be held in multiple stages alongside San Diego Bay downtown.
“We were hatching KAABOO San Diego way before Wonderfront (was announced),” he said. It is not uncommon for music festivals to take place directly adjacent to Major League Baseball stadiums, which often rent out their parking lots for such events. The 2004 edition of San Diego’s Street Scene festival — which KAABOO founder Bryan E. Gordon cites as a partial inspiration for KAABOO — was held entirely in Petco’s then-much-larger parking lot.
But it is unusual for a festival to take place both in and around a stadium, and even more unusual for such an event to be co-produced and co-marketed by a Major League Baseball team.
“I’m not aware of there being any other Major League Baseball team that has hosted, or plans to host, a festival like this. So, we are very proud and excited,” said Greupner, who noted that last year’s back-to-back Petco Park concerts by the Eagles and Def Leppard drew a combined 83,000 people to the stadium.
In May, KAABOO Texas made its debut at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. It was presented in partnership with the Jerry Jones family, which owns the stadium and the Dallas Cowboys football team. Attendance was so low that no 2020 date for the festival has been announced, and Felts last week told the Union-Tribune it was unclear if the Texas festival would resume. KAABOO Cayman, which debuted in March in the Cayman Islands, drew a sell-out crowd of 10,000 and tickets were immediately put on sale for next year’s edition. However, on Sept. 6, the 2020 edition of KAABOO Cayman was abruptly canceled.
No reason has been given.
KAABOO Del Mar, conversely, has grown increasingly popular each year. That is a key reason, Greupner said, that the Padres responded positively when KAABOO’s producers approached them last year about moving the festival to Petco Park.
“KAABOO is a very mature and established festival here with a track record of success,” Greupner said. “So, we’re confident that this is not a festival that is just starting out. It’s an established brand and taking an established, successful brand and putting it in Petco Park will take it to next level.
“Our economic interests in the venue are aligned with the growth of KAABOO San Diego. So, if it grows, we have the opportunity to participate in that growth. It’s a partnership where our interest are aligned to elevate and grow it. And we feel confident that Petco Park and the surrounding venues are the perfect place to do that.”
Del Mar Racetrack and fairgrounds CEO Tim Fennell sounded taken aback and surprised about the move when reached by phone mid-Sunday afternoon. Sept. 15, while he was attending KAABOO Del Mar.
“If that’s the case, I’d like to hear it from (them),” Fennell said. “Maybe we can convince them otherwise. We’d love to have them stay in Del Mar. I think the KAABOO brand is part of Del Mar.”
Felts spoke highly on Saturday of Del Mar, KAABOO’s home since its inception in 2015, although he expressed frustration with traffic delays outside the festival grounds that he said KAABOO had no control over.
“The Del Mar fairgrounds have been incredible partners, Felts said, adding: “When Bryan E. Gordon founded KAABOO in Del Mar, he entered into a lease agreement that offered the option of annual renewals, and he chose not to renew.”
— George Varga is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune