The Raceplace ought to be ready for concerts in a year.
  • The Raceplace ought to be ready for concerts in a year.
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The coast was clear for the Belly Up Tavern to take over booking for the state-of-the-art concert venue located on the Del Mar Fairgrounds. A committee appointed by the board that oversees the fairgrounds (the 22nd Agricultural Association) had announced in December that they wanted the team that books the Belly Up to bring 60 or so headliners a year into the 1869-capacity facility after its $13 million renovation is completed in early 2019.

All that was left was for the nine-member board to officially approve the deal with the Belly Up team, headed by Grammy winner Chris Goldsmith and talent buyers Pete McDevitt and Chad Waldorf.

But two weeks ago came an 11th-hour protest. A representative of Kaaboo addressed the monthly meeting of the Del Mar Fair board January 9th, saying that their three-year relationship with the Fairgrounds should give them the rights to book the new venue. The Colorado-based Kaaboo team enters its fourth year hosting the three-day music festival, which is held is September.

According to Fairgrounds spokesperson Annie Pierce, Fairgrounds general manager Tim Fennell expects the board will probably accept the initial decision of the committee and award the keys to the new venue to the Belly Up crew. She added that it is too late for any other entity to bid.

The committee noted that the Fairgrounds already had a relationship with the Belly Up, which has booked the Coors Light stage at the Del Mar Fair for five years and was also given the reins to the 4 O’clock Friday series during the thoroughbred racing season. The Belly Up took over the Music Box schedule in Little Italy in late 2016 and also books the Green Flash music series at the Birch Aquarium.

Insiders say the two major, national concert promoters did not put in any bids since they already have existing commitments to get headliners and their fans into other local venues.

AEG/Goldenvoice, which owns Coachella, principally books the Sports Arena, Humphreys, and the North Park Observatory. Live Nation owns the Mattress Firm Amphitheatre and House of Blues and books the two venues on the campus of SDSU. The new Del Mar Fairgrounds venue will be competing with all of those venues to attract headliners and their fans.

The 100,000-square-foot venue takes over the building formerly known as the Surfside Raceplace. There will still be a part of the building reserved for bettors. The new concert venue has yet to be named.

The new arrangement is particularly lucrative for the Belly Up, since it does not endure any risks should any of their bookings lose money at the door: the Belly Up will get a flat fee for booking the talent.

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