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Richard Eckfield knows the perfect way to draw bigger crowds to the Del Mar Fairgrounds. He’s pitched the idea for over three years. The problem is, nobody at the fairgrounds is listening.

Eckfield wants the fairgrounds to build a train stop at the north edge of the San Dieguito River. The idea isn’t new — in the 1930s, racetrack founder Bing Crosby bartered a deal with the Santa Fe Railroad to drop passengers off at the track. Eckfield says that although train passengers can take a trolley to the racetrack from Solana Beach, a dedicated platform would attract more people and cut down on traffic and emissions from the double-decker buses.

Eckfield wasn’t the first person to come up with the idea in recent years: plans for constructing an additional train stop have been included in the fairground’s master plan since 1985. In recent years, officials from North County Transit District, San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), and councilmembers from Del Mar to Encinitas have all supported construction of a new platform. Yet, despite all the support, no headway has been made.

During the past three years, Eckfield has testified in front of the fairground’s board of directors numerous times, pleading with them to arrange a meeting and listen to his ideas for the stop and where they might get the funds for it. There’s been no response.

So, Eckfield went on the offensive, accusing the fair’s CEO, Tim Fennell, of mismanagement and for running the state-owned property like an autocrat, averse to any outside influence.

Eckfield contacted reporters. He testified in front of the fairground's board of directors about the gratuitous 29 percent pay raise they recently approved for Fennell in a closed session meeting late last year (that raise has since been denied by the state). Eckfield attacked Fennell for choosing to ignore the state-mandated furloughs for state employees (that decision has since been overturned and now all fairground employees are required to work eight hours less each week). He criticized a roof project for going nearly $10 million over budget and protested the plans for a time-share hotel to be built on fairground property.

Despite the criticism, fairground spokesperson Talin Hartounian says everyone is on the same track when it comes to the train stop; the reason for all of the delays is finding the cash to fund it.

“As far as whether or not we support it, we absolutely support having a stop at the fairgrounds. We fully support it; however, financially, at this time, it apparently costs a lot more than originally estimated.”

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Comments

realnews March 16, 2009 @ 6:01 p.m.

It's been the common-sense, logical choice since, well, Bing Crosby. However, the fair doesn't benefit, hence powerful support against.

After all, there's a lot of revenue from parked cars. More than people suspect.

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Admin March 17, 2009 @ 8:50 a.m.

I loved the Del Mar Un-Fairground story, and except for the self serving last paragraph by the fair spokesperson, it is all true.

What I wish you had included was the fact that we have done the analysis of how the train stop at the rear of the west parking lot, north of the San Dieguito River can be funded at no cost to the tax payers. Tim Fennell, and fair board members like Barry Nussbaum have been saying they "are in favor of the train stop" for years. Yet they will not meet with us, and they belittle our efforts. Instead they place priority on building hotels on the fair grounds using the sub prime types of gimic financing that has gotten us into the worldwide fianancial mess we are in, bulding health spa on the fair ground, etc. etc.

They place priority on having big concerts that draw big heavy drinking crowds, which of course makes them big money.

They propose huge rases for the CEO while capital projects that have debatable benefits in the first place baloon up in cost from $4+ million to over $15 million.

Who is minding the store down there? If this were a private property none of us would say anything...but it isn't. It is a State property the 22nd District AGRICULTURAL Association... where is the Agriculture (although some have suggested to me that the availability of marajuana at the concerts there might be considered a ag. crop - it wasn't until last summer when things were totally out of hand that they even put up a sign saying no pot smoking!!!)

As a life long Republican I truly resent goverment officials not living up to what seems obvious facuciary responsiblities and putting out pablum excuses for poor preformance. And I hope the Governor, who I strongly support will agree with me. We had enough of that for the past 8 years in washington D.C. .

Hopefully your article will shine some light on fairground activities. If people look, and inquire, then what needs to be done will get done and the public will not be bought off by lame half truths and excuses.

Good Job Reader. Thanks to efforts like yours The Truth will Triumph Richard Eckfield.

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Ponzi March 17, 2009 @ 5:52 p.m.

A platform at Del Mar would also benefit the community if the fairgrounds would share the parking for commuter purposes. Imagine if there were a platform closer to all of the businesses in Carmel Valley? It is close than the Solana Beach and Sorrento Valley platforms.

The same would be true if Qualcomm Stadium would permit it’s parking lot to be used for free and open that trolley platform for commuters.

But it’s all about parking revenue. They’d rather see the lot empty than share it for the public good.

That’s why I laugh at the “free” events and shows that are always offered at Del Mar. The parking still costs from $10 to $20.… That’s not “free” anymore.

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PerNoel March 23, 2009 @ 11:20 a.m.

It seems to me that the availability of taking the Coaster directly to the Fairgounds from north county cities would be a great way for Oceanside, Carlsbad and Encinitas students with no car to get to summer jobs at the fair and races. Even inland kids from Vista and Escondido, where summer jobs may be less plentiful, could take the Sprinter/Coaster combo and earn summer money. It's to far for them to ride a bike.

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SoCalGal March 24, 2009 @ 10:34 a.m.

Building a train stop at the Del Mar Fairgrounds makes perfect sense to me. I am a San Diegan who is currently living in the San Francisco Bay Area and taking the train to big event venues is absolutely commonplace up here. Several of the race tracks in the Bay Area are served by train or the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), our metro line, including the Pleasanton Race Track, Golden Gate Fields, and the former Bay Meadows Race Track. Plus all the big venues that hold concerts and other events like the ones held at the Del Mar Fairgrounds are served by BART, CalTrain or Amtrak. I wouldn't even THINK about driving to one of these event locations when I can easily hop on and off a train!! Why mess with sitting in traffic and losing track of where I parked my car in a huge lot that turns into a sea of other cars? Good grief... there is such a better way to do it! I strongly encourage Del Mar to follow the example of Bay Area fairgrounds and race tracks and BUILD A TRAIN STOP!! Your visitors will absolutely love you for it!

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trestles March 24, 2009 @ 11:45 a.m.

5 I agree completely.

I have a friend who used to live in Burlingame, about 3 blocks from the Amtrack station. I used to visit her quite frequently. When I was there, we would walk or bike around Burlingame, but 75% of every place else we went , we used the train. Concerts, ball games, shopping in town, touristy stuff like fisherman's wharf, you name it the train was the easiest way to get there or at least within walking/biking difference. Even just going into town for dinner, we took the train. The only downside was that the last Amtrack left for Burlingame around 11pm. That was an easy fix; if we wanted to stay later, we just got a hotel room and took the train in the morning. We even found a couple of places that gave us a discount if we told them we missed the last train and only need a room till the next morning. No traffic, no parking hassles, no tickets for expired meters.It was only way to go. We live in south OC now and it is a royal pain going to the fair or the races. I no longer have family in Encinitas, so we can't come down early and go from there. And even if I still had family there, it would be easier to walk down to the coaster station and ride it in to Del Mar than to drive, even just from Encinitas. San Diego needs to get a clue from someplace that knows what they are doing. Build a station and people will come.

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clockerbob March 24, 2009 @ 12:05 p.m.

I don't think the people of Del Mar want a train station. They closed the old one.

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paperannex March 26, 2009 @ 3:43 p.m.

I own a business in San Juan Capistrano, and I come to the races at Del Mar a few weekends each season. As I have been quoted in several articles about the train stop published by Richard Eckfield and his wife Helen, if there were direct train service from Orange County to the Del Mar Fairgrounds/Race Track, I would come much more often. The hassle of the traffic especially on weekends discourages attendance. If we had direct service, I would likely come more often, even during the week. The economic benefits of building the stop has to be compeling. My congratulations to Richard and Helen Eckfield for being so persistent in trying to get this project going. I think 24 years of planning is long enough. I hope to see this Del Mar Track train stop open very soon. I would like to have Bing Crosby be there to great me, but since that can't happen, I look forward to having Richard and Helen be there to great me and all the racing fans from Orange County.

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eastcountylady March 27, 2009 @ 10:04 a.m.

I read with interest the discussion of building a train stop at the Del Mar Race Track.

Since they are a State agency, I assume it is the usual problem of overcoming inertia and contentment with the status quo which has prevented the Ag District from moving forward on something this worthwhile for the past 24 years.

I bet the horses at the casinos in East County. I would not dream of fighting the traffic to Del Mar to watch them live --- but a train ride to the track would be fun, easy and convenient. If there was a train that took me directly there, I would go.

Perhaps the Indian-owned casinos should take over the races. They no doubt would build that train stop in a minute. They understand the value of convenience to the customer.

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paperannex March 27, 2009 @ 10:57 a.m.

I own a business in San Juan Capistrano and come to the Del Mar races a few weekends each season. As I have been quoted saying in several articles about the Train Stop, published by Richard Eckfield and his wife Helen, if there were direct train service from Orange County to the Del Mar Fairground/Race Track I would come much more often. The hassle of the traffic discourages attendance. With direct service I would likely come often, even during the week. The economic benefits of building the stop has to be compelling. Congratulations to Richand and Helen Eckfield for being persistent in trying to get this project going. 24 years in planning is long enough.

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ChicagoVoice March 28, 2009 @ 9:36 a.m.

I find this particular subject somewhat amusing. Why would you not want to make things more convenient for your customers? Every major race track in the country was built along the railways. Have you ever been to Belmont on Belmont day (or any other day for that matter). People pack the trains and the turnstiles. Have you ever been to Arlington Park? Every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday the trains are full of not just horse racing fans but families.

I am most familiar with Arlington as I live in Chicago. I have a group of friends that take the train to Arlington almost every Friday during the meet. The train at Arlington drops you off in the parking lot about 30 steps from the entrance. It is more convenient than the parking lot. Most notable are the families bringing their children to the track. After all, this sport will die if we don't get the younger fans. My grandfather took me as a child and I have been going back ever since.

Also, when I fly into the area, I would like to have a choice between LAX and San Diego airports. Prices, times, availability are all a concern. It is a huge pain to rent a car and drive or take a cab/shuttle from either airport. The convenience of a train would really help.

Common sense brings up the issues like eliminating drunk drivers, traffic, pollution, etc. It kills me that the "suits" at the track do not get more pressure from MADD and the environmentalists for a train stop. I applaud Richard and Helen's persistence in this matter even at their own peril in some situations. Keep up the good fight!

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sdhikergirl March 28, 2009 @ 7:45 p.m.

From my perspective the benefits to having a train stop at the fairgrounds are three-fold: provide a green alternative for transportation, reduce crippling traffic and reduce potential for drunk driving.

In times of fuel conservation and efforts to reduce our impact on our environment, a simple solution like adding a train stop could take thousands of cars off the road. Visit the jam-packed Petco Park trolley stop before or after a Padres game and there will be no question how many left their cars at home.

Taking cars off the road relieves traffic at one of the most congested stretches of the I5 in the county.

And finally, it has been reported that during the horse races close to $1 million of alcoholic drinks are sold in a given day. Where do these drinkers go after the race? Providing a safe driving option is a good idea for the race track and surrounding community of Del Mar as well.

So many good reasons to have a train stop at Del Mar. When you consider that there is no cost to taxpayers, it seems like an obvious choice.

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mrbmbz April 1, 2009 @ 9:19 p.m.

I live in Aviara and ride the coaster every day to get to and from work in Downtown SD. My wife and I also use it to get to the Gas Lamp, baseball games etc and have always wondered why there is no stop for Del Mar. There are always lots of activities at the fairgrounds and no convenient way of utilizing public transportation to take advantage of them. To me is seems like a natural extension of an existing service that makes perfect sense.
With all the money being wasted by this organization why not do something that has been on the calendar and budget for 24 years. Isn’t it about time? BWC

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marty1 April 8, 2009 @ 12:52 p.m.

Many years ago I exercized race horses at Tropical Park in Florida and fell in love with those fast dumb beasts. Now I can't drive anything anymore and have no way to get to the track to see them run.Richard Eckfields article showed me that there may be a way for me and other seniors who can't drive to get the thrill of listening to "post call" and hear the thunder of thorough-breds coming down the stretch again. Why won't the Directors listen to this plan? Maybe some of old grey beards need to see how they get elected/appointed to that high mountain where they can't hear the voice of reason. Oceansideyogaguy

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saveponto April 13, 2009 @ 12:36 p.m.

sdhikergirl says it all!!!! The Coaster folks could also target the L.A. and Orange County region to bring in more people on the weekends, who would not have to drive/sit on the freeway to get to the track. Market it correctly, and the whole North County area would benefit economically from this win/win solution to the hassles of truly enjoying the day at the track.

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lbouras April 16, 2009 @ 3:48 p.m.

I live in Carlsbad close to Poinsettia Coaster Station. I like to take the Coaster to Old Town and Downtown events. When I pass behind the Fairgrounds I have always wondered why there is no stop there. As an active Senior I would love to be able to take the Coaster to the San Diego County Fair and back. Our local Senior Center used to regularly schedule a Day trip to the Fair, but no more. I pay my taxes and feel I should not have to fight I-5 traffic along the Fairgrounds, whether coming or going to the Fair. There should be an easier way to access this event held on state-owned land. The Governor should look into this.

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lallaw April 17, 2009 @ 2:50 p.m.

This area needs more convenient, affordable, and available public transportation period. Officials always fall back on the cost of doing so, but what they fail to take into account is while start-up costs may be heavy it is a cost effective investment into our community. Everyone benefits, something which Europeans have known since the last century. Businesses, Government coffers, commuters, students, the elderly, the otherwise home-bound, and let's not forget: the environment. The Earth! The air we breathe!

Right now it costs more to take a trolley/Coaster combo to Carlsbad from La Mesa than it does to drive there. Not to mention, the increasingly limited service schedule only enforces an auto and fossil fuel dependent community. There is a growing need that is being wholly ignored, unless there's an election.

Building new highways and byways, and repairing the infastructure that supports them, is not cheap either. It may be a catch 22, but at some point BEFORE gas prices go back up again I and many others would rally behind any political leader who didn't just talk about it but actually committed to making public transportation a feature in San Diego. It's doable, and way overdue.

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senioryoga April 18, 2009 @ 11:12 a.m.

I never thought much about a Coaster stop in Del Mar during Race Time and Fair Time. But on the other hand, I have never gone to the fair because I do not care to drive. Widening the freeway won't sway me to go, but a Coaster stop would. And any time I read/hear of an individual, who is a State Mandated CEO, putting monetary gain before the good of the public they represent, my hackles go up. So I am all for building this train stop at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. The timing could not be better. Let's get the job done now!

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silvaogirl April 20, 2009 @ 2:45 p.m.

I know that money is tight everywhere, but there must be a way to make this train stop happen. San Diego County needs to increase the methods of mass transportation in the area. From an environmental standpoint we must drive our cars less, and the more convenient that mass transit is, the more people that will use it. Also, it always feels like we're really getting ripped off when we have to pay such a high price to park at the Fairgrounds, especially for the "free" events. This leaves a negative image of the Fairgrounds and prevents us from attending more events there. We would definitely take the Coaster if it stopped at the Fairgrounds!

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spasamudra April 23, 2009 @ 11:50 a.m.

I stay away from the fairgrounds during the summer season, due to high traffic, If the train went straight to the fairgorunds I would definetly attend more concerts, and races. Bring the train to del mar. Not to mention it would cut back on the amount of drunk driving and accidents. BarkersBoat

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seahorse April 23, 2009 @ 4:55 p.m.

The fairground and the regional transportation agency (SANDAG) should realize that there is going to be more rounds of economic stimulus. We can all guess that next time mass transit is going to get more money.

This project would be a shoe-in for stimulus money. Our local officials should put up the money and design the train stop that everyone agrees will eventually be built. It is time to make this project shovel ready.

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PerNoel May 1, 2009 @ 7:42 a.m.

May 1, traditional Labor Day, and all over the world workers ride the train to their jobs at the race tracks. To Happy Island outside Hong Kong, Longchamp outside Paris, even Belmont Park outside New York City, and soon everyone will be able to take the Gold Line from all parts of LA to Santa Anita and Fairplex.

Last summer the SEIU Union did a survey of their workers at the Del Mar track measuring their mileage to and from work from their homes in Vista, Carlsbad, San Carlso, San Diego, Chula Vista and El Cajon. Using the federal mileage rate and any parking costs (some parked in the dirt for free) the nearest to the track, a security guard from Carlsbad would have saved $17.75 per day by taking the Coaster. The farthest away, an Usher from El Cajon taking the trolley to Old Town and changing to the Coaster would save $47.40 per day.

In tough economic times, savings like these should not be ignored. Let's build that train stop!!! We can do it - Yes we can!!!

Unionman.

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711par Aug. 30, 2009 @ 8:11 p.m.

I am the owner of a local store here in Carlsbad. For the past 3 years we have posted on our bulletin board thr articles written by Helen and Richard Nielsen-Eckfield about the needed train stop at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Two years ago we even had a petition signed by our customers-sent to the 22nd Ag. District advocating both a temporary stop and the permanent stop. Other buisnesses did the same. Nothing came of it. Opening day many of our customers took the train from Poinsettia Station. Getting ther was OK. But they all had to take the bus from the Solona Station. When the races were over they all had to fight to get a bus back to the Solana Staion so they could get home, Now would't be easier if the train went straight to Del Mar and when it was time to leave you could walk the the Train station right next to the track. I have friends who live north of San Diego that would come multiple times if they could take the train directly to Del Mar without having to stop in Solana Beach. So keep fighting for this. I think it would help all of North County to get to the track without having to drive.

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