Wa'sup With The Fairgrounds?
The boiling tumult that was the sale of the Orange County Fair and Event Center (Fairgrounds) has been on simmer for the the past couple months awaiting resolution of the legal challenges to the sale and to see if New/Old Governor Jerry Brown will use his executive power to halt the sale.
WHO DO YOU BELIEVE?
Parties on all sides of the issue - it's not really a two-sided issue, more like a parallelogram - have quietly jockeyed for position in the arena of public perception, hoping to be viewed as the "real" savior of the Fairgrounds. Jaded members of the public seem unwilling to buy any "I'm really a good guy" argument at this time, but we'll see.
ORANGE COUNTY FAIRGROUNDS PRESERVATION SOCIETY
Sandra Genis' Orange County Fairgrounds Preservation Society remains poised to pounce if it looks like the sale will go through. Over the past couple years Genis has spent countless hours lobbying with government officials at the local and state level trying to quash the sale.
FACILITIES MANAGEMENT WEST - "WE'RE GOOD GUYS"
Potential owner Facilities Management West recently issued a press release in effect telling the world that they are good guys and would be good stewards of the Fairgrounds if the sale goes through. Since President Ken Fait's little tirade before the City Council many months ago folks are having a hard time conjuring up the image of him as a benevolent owner.
PARTNERSHIPS AND PROFIT SHARING
Last week the management of the Fairgrounds, through their CEO, Dr. Steve Beazley, issued a couple press releases. The first, HERE, issued on March 24th "announced several forward-looking endeavors to enhance partnerships and profitability" and went on to talk about its relationship with Barrett-Jackson, including a new 85,000 square-foot exhibit hall to be used for the car auction. It also addressed the plan to find a partner for an 8,500 seat Pacific Amphitheater concert venue - we're assuming this would be a covered building that would deflect any future "noise" issues.
32ND DAA OWNS THE FAIRGROUNDS!
The second, HERE, issued the same day, announced the Fair Board affirmation of its belief that the 32nd District Agriculture Board actually owns the 150 acre site and pledged to halt the sale. The Fair Board has apparently unleashed it's legal counsel toward that end. This is good news.
Then, today, OC Weekly Chasen Marshall gave us his most recent view of the whole Fairgrounds issue, HERE, and actually got Fair Board President David Ellis to speak for attribution! Be still, my heart! Ellis actually is quoted by Marshall, when asked about the stealth non-profit creation that was at the cornerstone of the controversy nearly two years ago, as saying, "I'll be the first to admit I was in the middle of all that..." You can read the rest of his quote in the article at the link I provided.
BYRON DE ARAKAL JOINS FAIRGROUNDS TEAM
At the end of Marshall's piece today he announced to the world that my friend, Byron de Arakal, has been retained as a public relations consultant by the Fair Board. I've known about this assignment for a little while, but withheld comment until it was officially announced - I guess we're at that point now. I've teased my pal about this assignment since we first began talking about it. Much like Bill Lobdell's assignment with the City of Costa Mesa, Byron is going to have his hands full with this one regardless which way the sale goes. I've teased him about being a "corporate make-up artist", alluding to that old "lipstick on a pig" analogy. One thing I think we can anticipate is crystal clear communications coming from the Fair Board while Byron's onboard. We'll see...
O.C. MARKETPLACE OUT?
And, the fate of the Orange County MarketPlace remains in doubt. Operator Jeff Teller may find himself odd man out regardless which way the sale is resolved. It's clear from public pronouncements that Facilities Management West feels (felt?) that they could operate the upscale swap meet better. And, Teller is currently in "negotiations" with the Fair Board about problems with his rent. The drama continues...