Calif. fairgrounds garners $56.5M bid at auction

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COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — The state received a high bid of $56.5 million Thursday for the Orange County Fairgrounds as part of an effort to close California’s massive budget gap.

Developer Craig Realty Group made the bid at auction for the 150-acre property in Costa Mesa in conjunction with investor Dwight Manly.

Steven Craig, president of the Newport Beach-based group, said he wanted the annual Orange County Fair to remain on the site, which is set up for use as an entertainment complex. He also wants the property to continue to host concerts and a swap meet.

However, he said it costs $29 million to run the fairgrounds, which generates only $30 million in revenue a year.

“We’re not intending on redeveloping the property into something else. We like the fair use,” he said. “We think there are opportunities to expand and enhance.”

A group of local politicians and residents have raised staunch opposition to selling the property. On Thursday, residents rallied outside the auction to demand the site remain a fairgrounds.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger also wants to sell the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Del Mar racetrack and San Quentin prison to help close a projected $20 billion budget shortfall.

The state will review the bid for the fairgrounds and could execute a contract by spring.

Previous estimates of the value of the site ranged from $90 million to $180 million, said Erin Shaw, a spokeswoman for the State and Consumer Services Agency. Shaw said it’s too early to tell if the offer will be approved.

“We need to analyze the bid and see if the bid is going to ensure the state gets the highest return,” she said.

Craig Realty owns and operates retail factory outlets in six states, according to the company’s Web site.