Fair talks switch gears

City officials begin negotiations with the second group it had sought to run the Fair & Event Center.

May 21, 2010|By Mona Shadia

Costa Mesa has ended negotiations with American Fairs and Festivals, the prospective partner that officials wanted to operate the Orange County Fairgrounds.

Instead, the city has entered "exclusive" negotiations with Facilities Management West, the company that bid $55 million for the fairgrounds in January.

Officials are negotiating an agreement with Facilities Management to operate the fairgrounds, according to a news release issued late Wednesday.

Fred Armendariz of American Fairs — which comprises vendors and stakeholders at the fairgrounds, including the company that runs the swap meet — said he was not given a reason for the city's decision.


But in the last few days, he said, Costa Mesa officials became more concerned with how much money it could make from the operations of the fairgrounds.

"We always had a revenue-sharing component, but it wasn't the issue," Armendariz said. "The one issue the became dominant in the last go-around was how much are you going to pay us?"

Armendariz added that American Fairs offered the city a multimillion-dollar deal in the first four years of the operations agreement.

Facilities Management may have offered the city more money, Armendariz said.

The city's news release also states that Facilities Management "agreed to public ownership of the property," which had been the city's the main hurdle. Costa Mesa's goal in paying the state $96 million for the 150-acre fairgrounds is to preserve it and keep it in public hands.

Costa Mesa did not indicate that Facilities Management agreed to public ownership when it announced Tuesday evening that the group was added to the negotiations.

Council members Katrina Foley and Gary Monahan, the fairgrounds committee, which traveled to Sacramento on Thursday along with City Manager Allan Roeder to present the city's financial plan, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Calls to Roeder, Mayor Allan Mansoor and City Atty. Kimberly Hall Barlow were not returned Thursday.

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