Horses tentatively set to return to Del Mar Horsepark next July, new lessee says

Del Mar Horsepark
Del Mar Horsepark
(K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune

The new operators of Del Mar Horsepark want to begin construction early next year and have horses back on the premises by next July, they announced during an Aug. 9 board meeting of the 22nd District Agricultural Association at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

A longtime home to horse shows and other events, the 65-acre horsepark is located about three miles east of the Del Mar Fairgrounds at the corner of El Camino Real and Via de la Valle in the San Dieguito River Valley. The venue closed suddenly in early 2021 because of wastewater management requirements.

The board of directors that oversees the Del Mar Fairgrounds, on behalf of the state of California, and horsepark have been looking for a lessee to come up with a plan that would allow equestrian activities to resume. Board members and fairgrounds staff have estimated that it will take about $3-4 million to implement the necessary measures.

After one deal fell through, the board awarded the lease to Hits LLC, which is based in upstate New York.

“We’re going to hit the ground running very soon,” Tom Struzzieri, CEO of Hits, told board members during the meeting.

Improvements to the site will begin over the next few weeks, he added.

“The goal is to get 30% plans to the water board in October,” said Brian Hill, senior engineer at Tory R. Walker Engineering. “We don’t expect a long and drawn out process with the water board, so hopefully, fingers crossed, we’ll be in position to get construction underway on the improvements early next year and targeting July, next summer, for getting horses back on the site.”

Dale Harvey, CEO of West Palms Communications, was originally selected as the lessee in January. But in June, Harvey announced that he and the district couldn’t reach an agreement.

“We have collaborated with the 22nd DAA for over 20 years and we wish them all the best in their efforts to reopen the Horse Park,” Harvey said in a statement at the time. “We also intend to share all the work we’ve done on the stormwater project with them.”

The 22nd DAA board canceled the conditional contract with West Palms Communications in July, and then approved the new conditional contract.