Facilities Management submits second fairgrounds bid

COSTA MESA — Facilities Management West, the real estate company that entered into an agreement with the city to finance and operate the Orange County Fairgrounds, submitted a bid to the state to buy the 150-acre property on its own, according to a letter released Friday.

Though the exact bid was not released, it is expected to have met the minimum asking price, $96 million. If the bid by Newport Beach-based Facilities Management or any other party is accepted, it could dash the City Council effort to buy and control the fair complex that sits on state land inside city limits.

At the urging of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the state placed the fairgrounds up for sale Aug. 24 for the second time within a year after the transaction with Costa Mesa kept hitting dead ends.

The deadline for interested parties to submit bids to the state was Thursday.

The California Department of General Services, which is in charge of selling the fairgrounds, is not releasing the names of the bidders until Oct. 14, when the name of a winning bidder will be chosen, said DGS spokesman Eric Lamoureux.

More than one party submitted a bid to the state, Lamoureux said.

He would not say exactly how many bids were received.

Facilities Management spokesman Guy Lemmon sent a letter to the City Council on Friday informing Costa Mesa of the decision to submit a bid.

This is also the second time Facilities Management has submitted a bid for the fairgrounds.

The first, for $55 million, was in January. At that time, all bids were rejected as being too low, and negotiations began between Facilities Management and Costa Mesa.

"We have invested almost a year, considerable resources and determined energy to advance the city/FMW purchase of the property," the letter states. "It remains our expectation that our proposed joint purchase/lease will be completed in the coming days. If it is not, we hope to secure ownership under the terms of the RFP we have just submitted a response to."

Lemmon went on to explain that Facilities Management remains committed to preserving the annual summertime fair.

Councilwoman Katrina Foley, who voted against the lease agreement, has warned her fellow council members and city officials about looking into Costa Mesa's options in the event that Facilities Management places a bid.

"It's not surprising," she said. "And I still think we need to better understand all of our options and protection for the residents who we've been working hard for in an effort to preserve the fairgrounds in perpetuity."

Lemmon told the Daily Pilot on Aug. 24 that Facilities Management had no intentions of submitting a bid to the state and that the main issue at hand is working on the lease agreement to help the city buy the fairgrounds.

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