Del Mar Fairgrounds’ new $17 million concert venue, The Sound, opens February 3 with Ziggy Marley

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

The Sound will debut on February 3 with a 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 located on the northeast corner of the Del Mar Fairgrounds. It is located on the grounds of the Race Place Off-Track Betting Center.

Tickets for Marley’s concert, ranging from $75 to $125, will go on sale Friday, November 11 at 12pm on A presale begins Wednesday, November 9th at 12pm on the same website.

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

“We’re bigger than Humphreys and House of Blues and smaller than the San Diego Civic Theater,” said Chris Goldsmith, president of Belly Up Entertainment, on Monday, November 7th.

“Having The Sound means there will be more touring bands coming to San Diego who have outgrown these other venues but are not yet big enough to play an arena show here or at SDSU’s Cal Coast Open Air Theater. I think this could be a game changer, attracting a lot of artists that wouldn’t otherwise play here.”

These views are supported by Goldenvoice/AEG San Diego President John Wojas. His company books the 1,450-seat Humphreys exclusively and has hosted concerts at Copley Symphony Hall, The Rady Shell in Jacobs Park and other venues in the area.

“I’m excited about The Sound and I think it will do well,” said Wojas on Monday 7th November.

“There is a gap in San Diego for venues of this size and the fact that they will be booking many different genres of music is really welcome.”

The Del Mar Fairgrounds entered talks to open a concert hall at the fairgrounds in 2016 and subsequently awarded a deal to Belly Up Entertainment.

But the fairgrounds pulled out of that partnership in 2018 after producers at the now-defunct KAABOO Del Mar threatened to move elsewhere if the deal for the new venue went to the Belly Up. The board of the fair then announced that it would book shows at today’s The Sound.

The apparent demise of KAABOO – which last occurred in 2019 and is now the subject of multiple lawsuits – led to the fairgrounds bringing back the Belly Up. The original deal sees Belly Up Entertainment as executive promoter of The Sound for the next 10 years.

“We’re particularly proud to be working with the amazing folks at legendary venue Belly Up, a long-standing San Diego music company who will no doubt curate the new space with local sensitivity,” Del Mar Fairgrounds CEO Carlene Moore said in a letter Expression. “And what better performer to start 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.

“That kicked off our opening in February,” Goldsmith said. “I went to the first two Mainly Mozart concerts and was over the moon with how well they went and how good they sounded at the new venue.”

The sound, through the numbers

Venue size: 7,500 square feet on the ground floor, 2,000 square feet on the top floor.

Capacity: 1,900 for concerts with standing room, with 200 reserved seats on the upper floor and 100 on the ground floor. The capacity for all concerts is 800.

stage size: 43 feet wide and 32 feet deep

Furnishing: Five bars, four downstairs, one upstairs, serving light fare.

age limit: All ages for all shows.

Park: $10 for general lot; preferred parking tba.


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