A Conversation with Tim Fennell
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A Conversation With Tim Fennell

This episode of The Amplifier features Tim Fennell, who, for the past 21 years, has been Chief Executive Officer of the Del Mar Fairgrounds/Racetrack. Starting out at age fifteen as a parking and traffic attendant at the Saratoga Springs Performing Arts Center, Tim has held progressively responsible management positions throughout his career.
During the late 80’s, Tim was the Northwest Regional Manager for a fortune 500 company responsible for providing food and beverage service to nine major sports, recreational and entertainment facilities throughout the Northwest. He later became the Executive Director of the Portland Memorial Coliseum Complex/Civic Stadium.
During his tenure as the Chief Executive Officer of Del Mar Fairgrounds/Race Track the number of events has tripled to over 300 annually, gross revenues have more than tripled to $66 million and the economic impact to the region has grown to over $450 million annually producing more than 5,000 equivalent full time jobs.
Tim oversees a staff of 175 full-time, plus 200-1800 part-time employees with an operating budget of $60 million.
Under Tim’s leadership the fairground is totally self-supported, receiving zero tax subsidies and is dedicated to promoting agriculture, education, entertainment, and recreation in a fiscally sound and environmentally conscientious manner.
Tim also holds the position of Secretary Manager of the Race Track Authority, a Joint Powers Authority charged with the funding and overseeing of capital improvement projects of which $190 million were completed at zero tax payers’ expense within the last 20 years.
Tim was a member of the San Diego North Convention and Visitors Bureau from 1993 to 2012, serving as Chairman/President from 2004-2009. He is currently the President of the Don Diego Scholarship Foundation. 
Tim is a graduate of IAVM’s Public Facility Management School at Oglebay, West Virginia as well as IAVM’s Senior Executive Symposium at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration.
As a graduate of St. Bonaventure University with a B.A. in Management, and with 40 years of experience in the Event and Fair industry, Tim firmly believes that part of the fairgrounds’ mission is to create and attract events that are profitable, create jobs, educate and serve the community. Tim is also a member of the IAVM, IAFE and WFA.
In this episode, Tim Fennell tells how he never thought he’d be a “lifer” in the event industry, but that’s exactly what has happened and he wouldn’t have it any other way! Listen as he shares his experiences over a lifetime career and how success comes with constant reinvention and response to change. He discusses the importance of entrepreneurial thinking and adjusting not just your marketing but also your event to attract an ever changing audience.

Listen Now


Four Key Moments:

  1. 7:22 – Using themes to make the fair different and fresh every year. This year, the British are Coming (think The Beatles).
  2. 16:23 - Sponsorship opportunities are huge and only limited to one’s imagination!
  3. 17:35 - Naming rights have become ever popular with venues, but how about events?
  4. 20:24 - How do you get various demographics to your event and make them feel welcome so they will want to come back next year?  The answer is so simple it may surprise you!

Tim Fennell's Organizations

International Association of Venue Managers
International Association of Fairs & Expositions
Western Fairs Association
The Amplifier is brought to you by Saffire in cooperation with IAFE, IFEA, IAVM and WFA. For more information or feedback, please contact info@saffire.com.

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