Monterey County Board keeps other two contenders hanging in case things don’t work out
Blog note: this article references a 2015-16 grand jury report on track management.
The non-profit Friends of Laguna Seca is on the way to managing the storied track and bringing it back to fiscal health. Unless, that is, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors decides it wants to go with two other groups vying for management control of the race facility.
Specifically, Friends of Laguna Seca won the right to “negotiate initially” with the county for a concession agreement. The county board would have to approve any agreement that comes out of the negotiations. If things don’t go well in the concession agreement process, then the board can pick up with either of the other two groups that had turned in proposals. Those groups are Chris Pook’s (he who made the Long Beach Grand Prix into a great event) World Automotive Championship of California, and the existing managers, Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula (or SCRAMP, which has been running the track since it was built in 1957). SCRAMP bid in partnership with International Speedway Corp. ISC owns and operates 13 tracks, from Daytona to Watkins Glen.
The decision to change track management came out of a civil grand jury report released last July that said the Monterey County Parks Department and SCRAMP were not managing the facility well. If you wanted to cut SCRAMP some slack, you could point out that the troubles date back to 2008, when a recession hit the country and many businesses took a hit. Nonprofit race tracks were among those suffering the effects.
The Friends of Laguna Seca includes local racer and race car restoration and sales expert Bruce Canepa and motorsports entrepreneur Gordon McCall, who puts on The Quail A Motorsports Gathering, The Quail Motorcycle Gathering and the big kickoff event to car week popularly known as The Jet Party, held at Monterey Airport. We’d be happy with those guys running things. Friends leadership also includes vintage racer Jonathan Feiber, Porsche Club and kart racer Ross Merrill, historic racer, karter and food industry executive Thomas Minnich, racer and realtor Warren “Ned” Spieker Jr. and motorsport executive Lauri Eberhart.
On its website, Friends president Ross Merrill said, “We are committed to managing Laguna Seca with fiscal responsibility and for the benefit of our community. We’re driven by a passion for motorsports, a dedication to our community, and a desire to transform nearly six decades of renowned racing legacy into a new engine for our local economy. Ultimately, our aim is to restore the raceway’s former glory.”
The Friends proposal includes a 25-year commitment to rebuild the LSRA complex and implement a new business model that will include:
– A $50 million dollar capital improvement plan with $25 million invested in the first five years
– Establishing a profitable mix of events that will use all the assets of the LSRA
– Maximizing sponsorship opportunities and race track rentals
– Developing premium camping areas and an upgraded rifle/pistol range
– Enhancing the end-user experience facility-wide
– Bringing new events and premium programs to increase utilization within current restrictions, taking particular care to respect neighbors on Highway 68.
We wish them all the best and offer them this item of advice to begin with: Don’t be afraid to call it Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca a couple of times, just to keep your naming rights sponsor happy. But they already knew that.
Wednesday, October 19, 2016
[Monterey County] Friends of Laguna Seca looks to have won the right to manage track, maybe, probably, it seems
October 15, 2016
By Mark Vaughn