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Costa Mesa reaches agreement to buy O.C. Fairgrounds from the state

June 23, 2010 |  7:03 pm

The city of Costa Mesa has reached an agreement to buy the Orange County Fairgrounds from the state for $96 million and lease it to a private operator that would continue to stage the annual county fair.

The tentative deal for the 150-acre piece of prime property was reached Wednesday after months of negotiations between Costa Mesa officials and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office.

After several hours of debate, the Costa Mesa City Council approved agreements with the state and Facilities Management West Inc., a Newport Beach-based investment firm, just after 12 a.m.

The sale still requires approval from the state Legislature to move forward, and it may face hurdles from legislators who have criticized an ordinance Costa Mesa approved last month declaring itself a “Rule of Law" when it comes to dealing with illegal immigration.

State Assemblyman Jose Solorio (D-Santa Ana) said in a statement that he still had to be “convinced it’s a good deal for Orange County residents. Also, I know many of my legislative colleagues have great concerns about Costa Mesa’s recent anti-immigrant ordinance, so that will definitely be a factor and the city will need to address it.”

The state put the fairgrounds up for auction to try to cut the budget deficit, but the high bid -- $56.5 million from an outlet mall developer -- came in far short of the state's expected $96-million to $180-million price tag and was rejected.

-- Tony Barboza in Costa Mesa