Rental car companies storing 4,000 vehicles at Del Mar Fairgrounds

Rental cars companies are storing around 4,000 vehicles at the Del Mar Fairgrounds as pictured on Thursday, April 2, 2020.
Rental cars companies are storing around 4,000 vehicles at the Del Mar Fairgrounds as pictured on Thursday, April 2, 2020.
(Hayne Palmour IV/The San Diego Union-Tribune

Travel restrictions are parking rental cars nationwide


The Del Mar Fairgrounds may be empty, but its parking lot is full.

About 4,000 rental cars idled by the COVID-19 crisis are being temporarily stored on the asphalt lot outside the main entrance to the fairgrounds on Jimmy Durante Boulevard.

“We received a call from Enterprise Holdings based out of Orange, Calif., (Alamo, Enterprise and National rentals) on March 12,” said Dennis Robbins, event services manager for the fairgrounds, in an email Thursday, April 2.

“Due to the pandemic, they were looking for many lots to store cars, as people are not renting cars or traveling,” Robbins said. “I know they have many other lots rented, but I am not aware of the locations.”

Baseball stadium parking lots, including the homes of the Dodgers in Los Angeles and the Angels in Anaheim, also are being used to store rental vehicles during the pandemic, according to news reports.

The Del Mar Fairgrounds has a total of about 7,000 parking spaces, though some of the rental cars are in places not usually used for parking, Robbins said. The vehicles arrived at different times under three contracts that total $70,000 for 30 days.

The rental company’s contracts with the 22nd District Agricultural Association, which runs the fairgrounds, go through April 18, and it has the opportunity to extend the contracts through May, Robbins said.

“In my 20 years of working here at the fairgrounds, we have never rented our lots out for large storage of cars,” Robbins said. “The main reason for this is that we would normally be doing large consumer shows like the Fred Hall fish, tackle and boat show, CrossFit, the Good Guys hot rod show and many other events.”

Car rentals, like so many other businesses, have been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis, Avis Budget Group interim President and CEO Joe Ferraro said in a news release last week.

“Consistent with other integral components of the global travel industry, we are seeing significant impacts in our business around the world as a result of the coronavirus,” Ferraro said. “Our team is united in facing the current unprecedented health crisis, and we are committed to taking the necessary steps to protect the health and safety of our customers, our employees, and to navigate through this disruptive global event.”

Car rentals are down 80 percent nationwide, a spokesman for the American Car Rental Association trade group told USA Today last week.

About half of all car rentals nationwide take place at airports, where many of the flights have been canceled.

Finding space to park all the vehicles is just one problem facing the companies. Most of them lease the vehicles and must continue making the payments whether or not the cars are used.

Storage space is not a problem at the fairgrounds, where all large have events have been canceled or postponed through May.

Officials have not yet decided whether the largest event of the year, the San Diego County Fair, will proceed as planned June 5 through July 5.

—- Phil Diehl is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune