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Foundation Formed That Could Buy Fairgrounds

By ELLYN PAK
The Orange County Register

COSTA MESA – A local nonprofit has been formed to possibly purchase the OC Fairgrounds, which the state put up for sale last week to help close a massive budget gap.

The Orange County Fair and Event Center Foundation, which was formed this week, could put in a bid for the 190-acre property, said Dick Ackerman, former state senator who is counsel for the foundation.

The Fair Board, along with city and county officials, have voiced their support for the sale of the land to a nonprofit, which could maintain the fairgrounds as-is. The Legislature last week voted to sell the property.

During its meeting Wednesday night, board members said a nonprofit entity would enable the fairgrounds and event center to be kept as-is. Fair concessionaires packed the meeting with their concerns about the sale of the fairgrounds.

About a dozen longtime fair concessionaires questioned the future of the fair and sought answers to what would happen if a nonprofit took on debt to buy the grounds.

Ackerman said he is meeting with people from the city, county and fair board to determine who would make up the governance of the newly formed nonprofit.

“We don’t have total consensus of what that make-up will be,” he said.

He also said that the fairgrounds’ Centennial Farm Foundation, a nonprofit formed in 1991, is also being considered to facilitate a sale. No final decision has been made to which nonprofit would bid for the fairgrounds, he said.

A request for proposals is expected to go out within two months, according to state officials. The state expects a 60- to 90-day time frame for proposals to be submitted.

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