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In an effort to make Del Mar Horsepark profitable, boarding fees have been increased, trainers are now required to pay a fee, and parking during the San Diego County Fair, which was free in the past, will cost $5 per vehicle. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek
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Horsepark changes aim to put facility in the black

DEL MAR — Changes are being made at Del Mar Horsepark in an effort to make the 65-acre equestrian facility profitable.

To raise revenue, boarding fees have been increased, trainers are now required to pay a fee, and parking during the San Diego County Fair, which was free in the past, will cost $5 per vehicle.

The Del Mar Fairgrounds, which owns the property, also plans to take over the county hunter/jumper horse shows “to provide a nicer product,” 22nd District Agricultural Association board President Russ Penniman said.

The 22nd DAA, which governs the fairgrounds, bought the property at the corner of El Camino Real and Via de la Valle in 1994 for overflow parking primarily during the San Diego County Fair.

That use continues, with no events held at the site during that time. The rest of the year it is used for equestrian boarding and horse shows.

With the permanent loss of 1,250 parking spaces beginning with this year’s fair, officials ordered a financial breakdown of the activities that take place at Horsepark.

Janet Holden, who manages the site, presented the results to board members at the Jan. 12 meeting.

“For the boarding it’s not a very good picture,” she said. “The boarding does not make money.

“We maintain their rings and their stalls,” she said, adding that feed and bedding needs are met through a contractor and trainers take care of the horses.

Penniman said the current net loss on boarding is estimated to be about $130,000 annually.

The site is home to 223 horses in 145 box stalls and 78 pipe corrals, with about a dozen or so trainers who until recently paid no fees.

New boarding rates that went into effect Jan. 1 increased the monthly cost to $880 for a stall and $660 for a pipe corral. Trainers with less than 20 horses are now charged $500 a month.

“It’s competitive with the market,” Penniman said.

“It’s a very small amount,” Holden added. “We’re trying to get the boarding up so it doesn’t cost us anything so that the revenue that we generate on the other side of the property can support what we need to do.”

Holden said the trainer fees will be used to offset maintenance on the common area the barrier stations that must be put in.

The facility hosts several horse shows annually. Those considered “A-rated” are profitable. About a dozen that use a variety of promoters range in quality and do not necessarily make money.

The fairgrounds will now host those and limit them to about eight.

Ongoing maintenance at the arena includes new box seats, roof repairs and new fencing. Penniman said some of the barns will need to be replaced or simply removed, which could result in a loss of boarders.

“But it’s better that we lose borders and at least we’re breaking even or making money,” he said. “The future of the property, I believe, is going to be the horse show operation.

“The projections for ’16 are that we should be in the black,” he added. “So we’re headed in the right direction.”

The parking loss is a result of a legal settlement between the 22nd DAA and the California Coastal Commission, the adjacent cities of Del Mar and Solana Beach and the San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority.

Fairgrounds officials agreed to convert an overflow parking lot just south of the state-owned venue back to wetlands in exchange for continued use of a parcel east of Jimmy Durante Boulevard for year-round parking and temporary events such as the pumpkin patch and Christmas tree sales.