Citing an inability to come to an agreement with American Fairs and Facilities, the group offering to operate the Orange County Fairgrounds, Costa Mesa City Council voted to include Facilities Management West in its negotiations.
Facilities Management was previously ranked second in terms of who the city is working with to come up with a financial plan to pay the $96 million it is offering to the state for the 150-acre fairgrounds.
"It wasn't until today that it became clear that we didn't have a final agreement with American Fairs," said City Atty. Kimberly Hall Barlow.
Expanding negotiations to include Facilities Management West allows the city to work with both groups until an agreement is reached, Barlow said.
Following an agreement to exclusively negotiate with the state for a purchase of the fairgrounds, Costa Mesa reached out to four of the groups that initially offered to buy the fairgrounds from the state during January's live auction.
Two of the four — Advanced Real Estate Services, which offered $56 million, and American Fairs, a newly formed group made up of fairgrounds vendors and stakeholders, including Tel Phil Enterprises, which runs the Orange County Market Place and offered the state a protest bid of $1,000, partnered to work with the city. The third company Costa Mesa reached out to is Facilities Management West, which offered $55 million, and the fourth was Craig Realty Group, a Newport Beach-based outlet developer that came away as the winning bidder after its $56.5-million offer. Craig realty later dropped from negotiations with the city.
American Fairs is proposing to operate the fairgrounds, pay the down payment and the rest of its debt over a 40-year period, a plan that is consistent with Costa Mesa's goal of preserving the fairgrounds while keeping it in public's hands.
Facilities Management is interested in buying the fairgrounds and privately operating it.