Fair collects little from Equestrian Center [Corrected]


A review of the Orange County Fairgrounds Equestrian Center’s finances reveals what businesses there have to lose should the center be paved over.

The biggest tenant at the Equestrian Center is Rebecca Lewis, wife of Richard A. Lewis, president of the Lewis Operating Corp., which is one of the biggest developers in the state.

Rebecca Lewis is the largest tenant at the center, renting 19 stalls and three trailers for 10 horses. She paid around $7700 a month to Equestrian Services II Inc. last year, according to billing records. That rent is now $9710 a month, according to the operator.


An earlier version incorrectly stated that Rebecca Lewis boards 22 horses for $350 each at the fairgrounds. She rents 22 units — 19 stalls and 3 trailers — for 10 horses, paying a lower rate for stalls used as tack rooms, according to the center’s operator.

Local market rates for horse boarding are about $600.

The total rent that the Orange County Fair & Event Center received in 2011 for use of the 7.5-acre Equestrian Center was $71,432.38. That’s $793 per acre, per month — about half what the fair could get per day for parking during the summer.

At the same time, the Orange County Fair Board pays hundreds of thousands of dollars every summer renting additional parking space from neighbors, which is why officials started planning to pave over the Equestrian Center almost a decade ago.

Earlier this year, fairgrounds President and Chief Executive Steven Beazley said the issue isn’t the majesty and beauty of horses.

“It’s a land use question,” he said. “We are virtually landlocked. I don’t believe that the fair will ever acquire any land adjacent to itself, as most of it is institutionally owned.”

The fairgrounds is able to use one of the three horse arenas for carnie camping, but the property is otherwise fixed-use.

Aside from July and August, which are rent-free, the fairgrounds gets 10% of the monthly gross Hanson takes in.

Hanson got his contract fairly through a request for proposal process. Before he took over in 2003, the Fair Board was losing money operating the Equestrian Center with public employees, Beazley said.

In 2002, the public subsidy reached $172,141.31.

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