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Wednesday, Jul 24, 2024
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TOURISM—Grand Prix Leaders Look for Permanent Location



Barona Casino Opens New $30M Gaming Complex

As a temporary race track is being completed in upcoming weeks at the former Naval Training Center, new leadership at the Grand Prix of San Diego will be sizing up a path of a more permanent nature. They are developing long-term plans for the race’s business operation, said new CEO Jim Kidrick. Eighty percent of the street work was done during the race’s two failed attempts to run last year, Kidrick said. Other infrastructure issues will be finalized, he said. Kidrick wasn’t sure how much the race would cost to produce but said it would certainly cost more than $1 million.

“We’re going over all of the budgets right now,” he said. The same was true for the economic impact, attendance and out-of-town visitor count the race might generate, Kidrick said. A race similar to what they’re planning could generate $20 million to $30 million, he said, comparing it to the car racing industry’s established events. It would take a couple of years to really understand the race’s impact, Kidrick said. “When you start a process like this, you already need to be looking at year three or year four, because that’s when it all starts to materialize in a real positive way,” he said. Kidrick expects the event to attract the Hispanic market from Mexico and Southern California. Two months ago, Kidrick added the race to his current responsibilities as president and CEO of San Diego Bayfair/Thunderboats Unlimited, which produces San Diego Bayfair’s World Series of Powerboat Racing. Along with Kidrick, the main leader for the project is Rubio’s Restaurants, Inc.’s co-founder Ray Rubio. In April, Rubio became the project’s controlling investor. The race’s former operators, David Mitchell and Bruce Watkins, continue to own a minority interest in the race, Kidrick said.

Approached for the race’s CEO job three years ago, Kidrick declined because he feared the event wasn’t solid enough. The problems were both financial and enmeshed in the project’s business structure, Kidrick said.

Rubio has now brought in a renewed business standpoint, with a long-term plan to develop the car race in the county, Kidrick said. Among the goals for the Grand Prix group: building its own multi-use racing facility, Kidrick said. Chula Vista is one location under consideration, he said.

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Gaming Complex Opens: Barona Casino opened its new $30 million gaming complex Aug. 2, as part of the casino’s $150 million expansion. The new project required $30 million in outside financing, and the Barona Band of Mission Indians worked with local company Venture Catalyst, Inc. to obtain it.

The expansion includes an 18-hole golf course, scheduled to open this year, and a new casino and resort hotel. The complex has 700 new Las Vegas slot machines, new table games, and uses a new coinless voucher technology. In its recently published research on the gaming industry, Las Vegas Investment Advisors Inc. reportedly called Barona “arguably the most advanced slot floor in the world.”

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Bought And Sold: The Ocean Inn, off of Highway 101 in Encinitas, was recently sold to London-based Sairang Investments LLC.

The amount that Sairang paid for the 50-room hotel was not disclosed. The hotel will now be managed by Vikesh Ganatra. Previous owners Robert Rauch and Jerry Brooks will be taking on a new project: a new Homewood Suites by Hilton in Del Mar. Rauch’s R.A. Rauch and Associates, Inc. will develop and manage the property. The deadline for the next tourism & hospitality column is Aug. 17. Rodrigues can be reached at (858) 277-6359, ext. 107, or via E-mail at trodrigues@sdbj.com.

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