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Horse Trading
Tom Sohn | 26th Street & Art Olson | Avenida Primavera

The 34th running of the Breeders’ Cup will be held November 3 and 4 at the Del Mar Race Track. For those unfamiliar, the Breeders’ Cup includes two days of horse racing, with purses and awards totaling $28 million, generally considered the world’s richest two days of racing. It has been called the Super Bowl of horse racing, generally rotates locations annually and will be nationally televised on NBC. The attendance on days of racing will be capped at 37,000 spectators for each day. As a frame of reference, opening day of the Del Mar summer meet in 2016 and 2015 was 42,562 and 40,304. The 2016 San Diego County Fair averaged approximately 62,000 attendees per day with a high of 96,501 on
July 3.

Along with the crowds on Friday and Saturday, the Breeders’ Cup has typically brought substantial economic benefit to the surrounding area. In 2013, the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita in Arcadia, CA brought an estimated $39.5 million in direct spending on everything from hotels and restaurants to admissions and wagering. Broken down further, approximately $8.2 million was spent on lodging and $8 million on food and beverages. This could be a very nice boost for Del Mar during an otherwise slow period.

In fact, an attempt to find a hotel within the village of Del Mar would be a fruitless endeavor. Currently, the search for a hotel room from November 3rd through the 5th for L’Auberge, Hotel Indigo, the Best Western, the Clarion Inn, Les Artistes Inn and the Del Mar Motel shows no availability. In addition, while nothing has been made official, the Breeders’ Cup officials would like to house certain events within the village limits as well.

Along those lines, at the December 19, 2016 City Council meeting, the City Staff presented a proposal under which the Breeders’ Cup would construct a tent at Powerhouse Park. The tent would be used for Breeders’ Cup “Barn at the Beach” events held over a seven-day period. At this meeting, the Council approved the concept of the “Barn at the Beach” but left the specific details for a later meeting. The specific details such as tent size, tent height, tent duration and event details will need to come back before the City Council for approval but has already started a debate. Since the event entails one week of active use, as well as setting up, breaking down, and turf restoration, it would mean about 10-14 days of restricted public use of the park. This raises the question of whether Del Mar should allow its public amenities for extended use. The parks are already used for commercial or private events such as weddings or the Summer Solstice but not for such a potentially long duration. It could also set a precedent that our public amenities are for sale for other long duration private events. The community must ask itself, is this the direction in which Del Mar should move.

While it is clear the event holds economic upside for the County and the City itself, it is a major event being held in Del Mar during an otherwise quiet time. While the “Barn at the Beach” details are far from finalized, even the concept poses interesting questions. One thing is certain, the Breeders’ Cup is coming. Our City Council and the citizens of Del Mar will have a large say in how well the Breeders’ Cup and its events are received.

Source: 2013 stats for Santa Anita - Tourism Economics



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