The new operators of Belmont Park will soon embark on a multimillion-dollar revitalization of the historic Mission Beach attraction, aiming to diversify offerings for locals while restoring its place among San Diego’s tourism icons.
“We want to make this a must-visit attraction again,” said Brett Miller, CEO of Eat.Drink.Sleep, one of two local companies that recently purchased the leasehold on the amusement park in a trustee sale. “We want to get back to those days when visiting Belmont was like visiting Balboa Park or Hotel del Coronado — you had to go there if you came to San Diego.”
Miller’s company and the partnership’s majority investor, Rancho Santa Fe-based Pacifica Enterprises Inc., are not disclosing the price paid for the leasehold on the city-owned, 7-acre oceanfront property, where Belmont Park opened in 1925. The park has undergone several renovations over the decades, and remained open amid rent-related legal disputes involving the city and its previous leaseholder, locally based Wave House Belmont Park LLC, which filed for bankruptcy in 2010.
The privately held Pacifica Enterprises holds a 70 percent stake in the Belmont venture, through its Symphony Asset Pool XVI, with Eat.Drink.Sleep taking 30 percent. Miller’s company, which also owns and operates Tower 23 Hotel and Moondoggies sports bar in Pacific Beach among other holdings, will be spearheading Belmont renovations and overseeing daily operations.
The new operators have not finalized the amount that will be spent, but Miller envisions a three-year transformation with the first phase of renovations to be completed by the end of 2013. Architects and landscape and lighting designers are at work on plans, expected to be unveiled in the first quarter, that will initially include repairs to the building housing a health club and indoor pool facility, known as The Plunge.
The Plunge, dating back to the 1920s, has racked up operating losses for several years, and is in need of significant repairs to its roof and other components.
“We don’t want people focused on whether that light fixture is from 1928 or 2012,” Miller said of upcoming plans for the pool facility. “We want to do the lighting and these other things so that it brings attention to those bigger historical elements.”
Rather than proceeding with incremental fixes, Miller said operators are formulating a long-term vision to restore and protect Belmont’s historical character, while making its retail and other components more attractive to local residents, so that it is less dependent on seasonal tourist traffic.
Operators are in talks to fill vacant restaurant and administrative office spaces with a mix of tenants that could include food sellers, coffee shops and service businesses.
Boutique Grocery Store
“We’re not talking about bringing in a big supermarket,” Miller said. “We’re looking more at a smaller boutique-type grocery store that could serve the visitors and also the local neighborhood.”
Miller said the park’s financial stability going forward will likely encourage amusement attraction operators to upgrade and install new features. Amusement companies and other firms operating at Belmont had held off on new investments while the park’s financial situation stabilized, he said, and there are now ongoing talks related to new attractions.
Pacifica Enterprises is led by principals Robert Colucci and Dario DeLuca. Its recent local acquisitions have included the Cielo Village mixed-use development in Rancho Santa Fe, and a country club and hotel at Lake San Marcos.
Nicolas Biancamano, director of acquisitions at Pacifica, said the investment firm does not plan to be heavily involved in daily operations at Belmont. He said the acquisition was among a series during the past two years, in which the company was able to purchase distressed properties at a favorable price, injecting its own capital to stabilize operations and add long-term value.
“It fit in very well with our other investments,” Biancamano said.
Pacifica Enterprises also holds stakes in the Sunroad Centre office building in Kearny Mesa, and retail and apartment buildings in San Marcos and Vista. It reports an overall portfolio of properties with equity positions totaling more than $350 million.