New tenant chosen for Del Mar Horsepark after West Palms pullout
DEL MAR – The Del Mar Fairgrounds has selected a new tenant to manage the Del Mar Horsepark this week following the original tenant chosen in JanuaryWest Palms Events, has decided to withdraw its proposal due to failed negotiations with Fairgrounds management.
Horsepark operations will now be managed by New York-based Struzzieri Ventures Inc., a national event management company that organizes horse shows across the United States, the Friends of the Del Mar Horsepark announced Thursday. Struzzieri, also known as its event circuit Horse Shows in the Sun (HITS)was the only other bidder to respond to Fairgrounds’ RFP, or RFP, issued nearly a year ago.
Camarillo-based West Palms Events and the 22nd District Agricultural Association, the board that operates the fairgrounds and equestrian park, had been negotiating the terms of the park’s lease for six months. On June 6, West Palms released a statement saying that those negotiations failed and that they would no longer pursue their plans for the Horsepark.
“With only a guaranteed five-year contract, we weren’t able to come to a deal that worked for us,” said West Palms Events CEO and President Dale Harvey. “We have partnered with the 22nd DAA for over 20 years and wish them the best in their efforts to reopen the Horsepark.”
The 22nd DAA issued a Notice of Intent to award the Horsepark Lease to HITS the same day. HITS plans to open the park in 2023 and hold hunter/jumper shows throughout the year, as well as “all-discipline events,” according to a June 9 statement. Press release.
President and CEO Tom Struzzieri expressed his excitement at bringing his horse show expertise back to California. After starting shows in Indio in the 1990s, he opened Desert International Horse Park in the spa community of Coachella Valley in 2007.
“The advantage of being a lifelong rider, rather than just an investor, gives me a unique perspective not only to develop and design facilities, but also to act as a rider in coordinating events. These skills will be essential after witnessing the challenges the sport has faced over the past year. I look forward to beginning the renovation project for one of the nation’s most iconic equestrian facilities and then producing some of California’s most notable events,” said Struzzieri.
The 65-acre site on the corner of El Camino Real and Via de la Valle has been closed since 2020 due to water quality issues from the Regional Water Quality Board, with the cost of repairing the problem estimated at approximately $8 million.
As a new tenant, HITS has outlined plans to complete various improvements to the park over the next year, including addressing water quality issues, improving walking in the horse rings, adjusting the layout of the park to better accommodate exhibitors and updating the 400 stables on site.
“HITS looks forward to returning to the West Coast for the 2023 show season and welcoming exhibitors to the legendary Del Mar Horsepark, allowing the West Coast to continue its long tradition of top-level equestrian competition at the popular venue.” , the company said.
Harvey of West Palms Events said the company will also share its existing work on the park’s stormwater project with the 22nd DAA.
Solana Beach resident Carla Echols-Hayes, co-founder of Friends of the Del Mar Horsepark, said she thinks Struzzieri and her team of HITs would be a good fit for Horsepark.
“He has developed incredible equestrian facilities across the United States, and national championships are held at these locations all the time. So I think we have the right person,” Echols-Hayes said. “I personally think we’re very lucky he wants Del Mar because he’s turned down other offers. He really has a choice of facilities and he knows what works in all these different places.
The 22nd DAA did not respond to a request for comment on this story.