Fair Board could jump into legal battle

COSTA MESA — The Orange County Fair Board could jump into the legal morass that is the O.C. Fairgrounds sale while it works to turn the property into a premier entertainment center, according to fairground officials.

At Thursday's Fair Board meeting, trustees stated their opposition to the state's sale of the 150-acre property to Facilities Management West and indicated that the board would explore legal options to jump into the fight.

An Orange County Superior Court judge put a hold on the sale of the fairgrounds to Newport Beach-based FMW last year, pending the outcome of a lawsuit now held up in the state Court of Appeal.

The board could join other litigants opposing the sale. Opponents of the sale fear, among other things, that FMW would develop the property for non-fairgrounds purposes. Company officials deny the claim.

While that battle unfolds in court, board members announced a developing partnership with Barrett-Jackson to permanently bring the classic car auction again to Costa Mesa as one of the auctioneer's four annual nationwide stops. The auction generates millions for the company and could generate significant revenue for the fairgrounds.

Fair Board officials indicated in a news release that they are considering building an 85,000-square-foot facility for Barrett-Jackson that could be used for other shows throughout the year.

The board, city and the Costa Mesa Conference and Visitor Bureau are also considering a public-private partnership to expand the Pacific Amphitheatre, city officials said.

The moves would work toward the fairgrounds' 2003 master plan to turn the property into a premier Orange County entertainment destination.

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