Al Tarkington | 11th Street
Photo Art Olson.
The 22nd Ag District’s reasoning and justification for its master plan expansion places financial objectives above all else. Other considerations take a back seat.
The Ag District has demonstrated in the past that their financial assumptions have been short lived.
The race track $80 million grandstand expansion, completed in 1993, was built for a growing number of race attendees (at that time the expansion was the second largest public works project in San Diego County). The expansion doubled the seating from 15,000 to 30,000. At that time the Track hosted one million patrons and was projecting many more. Since then, the number of race patrons has been on the decline. Average daily attendance in 2008 was down to only 16,645 causing the Thoroughbred Club to drop one day per week from the 2009 meet.
The Del Mar Surf Side Race Place (photo page 16) satellite betting facility was built in 1991 for attendance far in excess of its now declining numbers of bettors. “California’s largest and most luxurious” satellite wagering facility with “more than 1,000 video monitors” now sits nearly empty of bettors much of the time. Between the betting facility’s opening in September, 1991 to 2005, both attendance and money wagered were down by nearly one-half, and those numbers have continued to deteriorate since 2005.
With the grandstand expansion and the satellite racing facility, the Ag District has a monopoly. They are the only game around for thoroughbred racing and betting. Their proposed expansion into the convention business and the hotel business will place them in competition with nimble private enterprise in highly competitive businesses. Real risk of failure exists, and the public (not private investors) will bear the burden of failure.
The 22nd Agricultural District’s prior predictions are strong evidence that their current master plan is overly optimistic. It would appear that the Ag District may be betting on a dark horse.
sources: L.A. Times, Casino City Times, 22nd Ag District