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No blue ribbon on sale of fairgrounds

O.C. officials hope to prevent today's auction but will also submit a bid as a backup plan.

January 14, 2010|By Catherine Saillant

Proposed sales of the highest-profile properties -- the Coliseum and the like -- hit a snag in the Legislature, with lawmakers arguing against selling off landmarks in their districts. The Legislature agreed to the Orange County Fairgrounds sale in part because it initially had the backing of some local lawmakers and governments, including the Orange County Board of Supervisors.

Moorlach said the board changed its mind because there were too many unanswered questions about what might happen with the fairgrounds property.

Now, Orange County and the city of Costa Mesa think their best strategy is to jointly purchase it. The state estimates it could bring in $96 million to $180 million. They are among seven bidders who have put up the required $50,000 deposit. The bids will be unsealed today at the Orange County Fairgrounds.

The two governments signed a joint powers agreement to guide the purchase and potential future operation of the fairgrounds, Costa Mesa Mayor Allan Mansoor said.

Unless they are outbid, their priority is to keep the land as a place where people will continue to display cattle, attend car shows and show off prized tomatoes, he said.

"It's the only way to guarantee it remains a fairgrounds," said the mayor.

Mansoor said the experience has left him disappointed with the governor.

"This is not the way to solve our budget crisis," he said.

catherine.saillant@latimes.com

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