Del Mar Plan May Hinge on Training Center

by Jack Shinar

A draft master plan for changes at the Del Mar Fairgrounds that includes a provision for an off-site horse training facility will get its first public hearing early in 2002.

The draft goes to the San Diego County Agricultural Board, which is likely to set a public hearing between its regularly scheduled meetings of Jan. 8 and Feb. 13. The exact date has not been set.

One report estimated that if the entire 15-year master plan, which consists of 62 proposals, were to be implemented, the cost would be in the neighborhood of $300 million. A press spokesman for the fairgrounds, Steve Fiebing, said that it is unlikely that the board would approve all of the plan's provisions.

However, Fiebing said the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club strongly supports the development of an off-site training facility, and that many other provisions in the plan hinge on that project.

"The Thoroughbred Club feels that we will have better quality horses if we can develop an off-site facility for training," he said. "Right now, many owners complain that they don't want to bring their horses here (for the summer meeting) because there is no where to train them other than on the main track, which is only available in the mornings and gets very crowded."

Fiebing said a site for the proposed training facility near the racetrack needs to be located and an Environmental Impact Report developed. He could not provide a cost estimate for the completed project, and neither the agricultural board nor Del Mar has identified any funding sources.

"This is all very early in the process," Fiebing said.

The master plan for the 350-acre fairgrounds, which includes the racetrack and backstretch, was developed by a 24-member panel representing communities from throughout San Diego County. The group has been meeting over the past 18 months, Fiebing said.

Following public discussion, the county's Agricultural Association board will determine which of the proposals should be pursued and decide how to fund them, he said.