Fairgrounds CEO describes ‘overall fiscal health’ in 2021

Del Mar Fairgrounds
Del Mar Fairgrounds
(San Diego Union Tribune)

Del Mar Fairgrounds CEO Carlene Moore said there were several positive financial signs in 2021, as the state-owned venue tried to return to normal as much as possible in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There are a number of factors, both on an expense savings side and on a revenue generation side, that are contributing to overall fiscal health for 2021,” Moore told the fairgrounds’ board of directors during their Feb. 8 meeting.

After canceling the 2020 San Diego County Fair, board members and fairgrounds staff brought Homegrown Fun, a scaled-down version of the fair, to the community in 2021 last summer. Total attendance over the course of the 19-day event was about 272,000.

“Everybody will recall the success of homegrown fun, which did even better than we had anticipated,” Moore said. “Food and beverage as a result of horse racing was much stronger than anticipated, and satellite wagering has been performing better than anticipated.”

In-person horse racing also returned in 2021. Attendance during the summer race meet at the Del Mar Race Track was approximately 240,000 over 31 racing days, according to disclosures from the fairgrounds. The Del Mar Race Track also hosted the 2021 Breeders’ Cup, which drew about 47,000 attendees over two racing days.

The 22nd District Agricultural Association, which operates the Del Mar Fairgrounds, received about $20.1 million of COVID relief funds from the State of California in 2021. Approximately $9.6 million of that funding was allocated to calendar year 2021, records show, with the remaining $10.5 million allocated to calendar year 2022.

Moore also said a reduction in unemployment insurance expenditures helped the district in 2021.

“Our unemployment insurance significantly dropped off, beginning in Quarter 2, carried through Quarters 3 and 4, from what we were seeing and therefore projecting in terms of budgeting from 2021,” Moore said.