Fair Board proposes revenue-sharing deal

COSTA MESA — With one deal to buy the Orange County Fairgrounds held up in court, the Fair Board announced at its Thursday meeting that it would pitch a revenue-sharing deal to Gov. Jerry Brown, which would keep the property in public hands.

"This is a state agency to state agency engagement," said OC Fair & Event Center President and Chief Executive Steve Beazley.

The Fair Board had tried to strike a similar deal with former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last year, Beazley said.

Schwarzenegger made a strong push to sell off the state property — one of many he tried to sell across California to narrow the state's budget gap.

The Fair Board's liaison committee, made up of board Chairman David Ellis and board member Dale Dykema, is looking to schedule a meeting with Brown to propose the idea, Beazley said.

The deal would keep the 150-acre fairgrounds in Costa Mesa in public hands, maintain flexibility in management and offer some relief for the state's balance sheet through extra revenue, officials said.

Newport Beach-based Facilities Management West, which was selected as the winning bidder for the property last year with a $100-million offer, released a statement criticizing the Fair Board's move.

"The fair board approach is a speculative real estate play to achieve a hopeful result that they have not been able to achieve in their history, and contrary to local community needs," said Facilities Management spokesman Guy Lemmon.

Indeed, a key part of the Fair Board's revenue-sharing hopes rests with the development of the Pacific Amphitheatre, officials said.

The Fair Board also approved a request for qualifications that could bring a private company in to help develop entertainment and other revenue-generating ideas for the venue.

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