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Del Mar Fairgrounds’ new $17 million concert venue, The Sound, sets Feb. 3 opening with Ziggy Marley

The Sound, the new 1,900-capacity concert venue at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, will open in February.
The Sound, the new 1,900-capacity concert venue at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, will open in February.
(Jason McClain)

The 1,900-capacity venue will be run by Belly Up Entertainment, the booking and marketing division of the Belly Up concert venue

The Del Mar Fairgrounds’ new $17 million concert venue, which has been in the works since before the pandemic, now has an official name and opening date.

The Sound will debut with a Feb. 3 performance by reggae-music star Ziggy Marley, whose 2021 San Diego performance was a stadium show at Petco Park.

The new venue will have a capacity of 1,900 and be open to all ages. It is at the northeast corner of the Del Mar Fairgrounds. It occupies what was the site of the Race Place off-track betting facility.

Tickets for Marley’s concert, priced from $75 to $125, will go on sale Friday at noon at thesoundsd.com. A pre-sale will begin Wednesday at noon on the same website.

The two stadium concerts offered a welcome return to live music for thousands of socially distanced fans

The Sound will be operated by Belly Up Entertainment, the booking and marketing division of the Belly Up concert venue. The Belly Up is in Solana Beach, barely a mile away from the new Del Mar venue. The company also books shows at other San Diego venues.

“We’re larger than Humphreys and House of Blues and smaller than San Diego Civic Theatre,” Belly Up Entertainment President Chris Goldsmith said Monday.

“Having The Sound means more touring bands will come to San Diego who have outgrown those other venues but are not big enough yet to play an arena show here or at SDSU’s Cal Coast Open Air Theatre. I think this could be a game-changer that brings a lot of artists who otherwise would not play here.”

Those sentiments are seconded by Goldenvoice/AEG San Diego President John Wojas. His company exclusively books the 1,450-capacity Humphreys and has produced concerts at Copley Symphony Hall, The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park and other area venues.

“I’m excited about The Sound and think it will do well,” Wojas said Monday.

“There’s been a void in San Diego for venues of this size, and the fact they will book a lot of different genres of music is really welcome.”

The Del Mar Fairgrounds entered into conversations about opening a concert venue at the fairgrounds in 2016 and subsequently awarded a contract to Belly Up Entertainment.

But the fairgrounds retreated from that nascent partnership in 2018, after the producers of the now-defunct KAABOO Del Mar threatened to move to another location if the contract to the new venue went to the Belly Up. The fair’s board then announced it would book shows at what is now The Sound on its own.

The apparent demise of KAABOO — which last took place in 2019 and is now the subject of multiple lawsuits — led to the fairgrounds bringing back the Belly Up. The initial contract calls for Belly Up Entertainment to act as The Sound’s managing promoter for the next 10 years.

The fate of the dormant upscale music festival, which is mired in litigation in several states, remains unclear. Some ticketholders have gone two years seeking, but failing to obtain, refunds

“We’re especially proud to partner with the great people at the legendary Belly Up venue, a long-time San Diego music company, who will undoubtedly curate the new room with local sensitivity,” Del Mar Fairgrounds CEO Carlene Moore said in a written statement. “And what better performer to start off the music at The Sound than a legend like Ziggy Marley?”

Marley won’t be the first performer at The Sound, although he will be the first since the venue’s new name was announced. San Diego’s Mainly Mozart Festival Orchestra performed three concerts there in October when the venue was temporarily called The Center at The Del Mar Fairgrounds.

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“Those were a prelude to our February opening,” Goldsmith said. “I went to the first two Mainly Mozart concerts and was over-the-moon happy with how well they went and how good they sounded in the new venue.”

The Sound, by the numbers

Venue size: 7,500 square-feet on the main floor, 2,000 square-feet on the upper level.

Capacity: 1,900 for general admission concerts, including 200 reserved seats upstairs and 100 downstairs. Capacity for all-seated concerts is 800.

Stage size: 43-feet wide and 32-feet deep

Amenities: Five bars, four on the main floor, one upstairs, with light food items.

Age limit: All-ages for all shows.

Parking: $10 for general lot; preferred parking options tba.


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