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Del Mar fairgrounds
The fair board’s projections include $9 million in support from the California Department of Food and Agriculture. File photo
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Fair board projects losses in 2021 despite county fair, state aid

DEL MAR — After a difficult year financially, the 22nd District Agricultural Association (DAA) board presented its 2021 operating budget with projected revenues from a scaled-back fair event this summer and more expected financial aid from the state.

Even with the projections of revenue from the Homegrown Fun event, the 22nd DAA is still projected to be at a loss of nearly $2.4 million for the year.

The fair board said their net position will be improved by just over $2 million thanks to Homegrown Fun and that will help to chip away into some of the losses incurred by the COVID-19 pandemic last year.

“Really our goal at this point, with things opening back up here in the state of California and San Diego County with those opportunities, is to overcome that red figure,” said Carlene Moore, CEO of the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

The fair board’s projections also include an expected $9 million in support from the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). The state agency announced in a letter to all CEOs and board members of district agricultural associations last month that it would begin the second distribution of funds from the state it received last year.

The 22nd DAA has applied for targeted support through that allocation based on their financial need.

The board has not made changes to its projections after news last week that Gov. Gavin Newsom plans to more open up the state’s economy by June 15 with plans to do away with the state’s colored COVID-19 tier system with vaccinations increasing.

“What we didn’t want to do with this, again that news was just last week, was start making too many changes to this so just focusing on Homegrown Fun and the CDFA targeted support,” Moore said.

The fair board says they took a conservative approach in terms of projecting their revenue but an aggressive approach in projecting their expenses.

“We are confident in being able to obtain these numbers,” Moore said.

The Homegrown Fun event will also be a large contributor to the board’s expenses for the year with the event project costing around $5 million, which would be less costly for the board than a normal fair.

In 2020, the fairgrounds had projected revenue of just over $85 million but reported actual revenue of just under $19 million thanks in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic halting fairgrounds events and keeping fans out of the stands for the 2020 horse racing season.

A significant part of that loss comes from food and beverage which was projected at a revenue of close to $23 million for 2020, with the actual revenue coming in at under $1 million for the year.

In this year’s budget, with fans expected back in the grandstands for the horse racing season starting in July, the fair board is projecting nearly $7.5 million from food and beverage from horse racing events, the largest single source of revenue aside from the aid from the CDFA.

The financial future of the fairgrounds does remain unclear, but the board is hopeful with the pandemic situation in the state continuing to improve that there will be further revenue opportunities moving forward.