• Keep Laguna Seca Local

    For more than 50 years, SCRAMP (Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula) has been stewards of the race track now known as Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, the iconic track they built back in 1957. Back then, after major mishaps in the road racing world, the federal government deeded a portion of BLM land (which still abuts Laguna Seca Recreation Area) to provide a safe facility for racing. Part of the agreement was that it would become a county park and that SCRAMP, a non-profit corporation, be given a concession to operate the raceway. Proceeds from the park were to remain in the park. That portion of the agreement has not been honored by the Board of Supervisors and hundreds of thousands of dollars earned there have been spent in other areas of the county and not in Laguna Seca, because some Parks officials as well as Supervisors see it as a “cash cow.” But SCRAMP has well and faithfully operated the raceway in the park and made more than $50 million of improvement to the facility. More needs to be done. There’s arsenic in the water and there are geological problems. SCRAMP has been working on it.

    SCRAMP has annually donated more than $250,000 of its proceeds to local non-profits, civic organizations and charities through grants and/or volunteer-for-grants programs. Kiwanis, Lions, Chambers of Commerce, Boy Scouts, Monterey Bay Veterans, LULAC, VFW, Explorer Scouts, high school programs and other youth clubs have benefitted by offering man-hours in return for a share of profits after the racing season is over. For years, Pacific Grove Volunteer Firefighter Association provided guard services in return for a grant. It worked well for decades. SCRAMP has interceded with neighbors who had traffic and noise issues and worked out amicable solutions, partly because of the good will brought about by money donated to non-profits each year and resultant public support.

    But since January 2014, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors has conducted closed-session meetings to discuss a new concession agreement with a different operator, and without SCRAMP’s knowledge or input, or the knowledge or input of the public. These closed-session meetings resulted in the Board of Supervisors entering into a 90-day due diligence agreement with International Speedway Corporation (ISC) to take over management and operation of the raceway. ISC is a for-profit, publicly traded corporation based in Daytona Beach, Florida, whose primary business is the ownership and management of NASCAR race tracks, all in search of the almighty dollar.

    We must not allow this to happen.

    Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca has been found to annually generate approximately $200 million in economic benefit for Monterey County by producing five races and other events at the facility – the West Coast Spirit event and the sea Otter Classic for example (these are county events, NOT promoted or managed by SCRAMP). Camping and track rental during racing events provide other income from SCRAMP. Granted, race fans will come to the area and bring tourist dollars with them simply because they want to see races. Or will they?

    ISC has been quoted as believing that the nearly 300 volunteers who keep the track running day to day will come and volunteer for them as well “because they love racing” and ISC will be able to see a profit as a result.

    Don’t count on it. I for one, will not do that. Nor will dozens of the other volunteers with whom I’ve spoken. We’re not necessarily there for the love of racing.

    For nearly 20 years, I have volunteered on the Guest Services committee of SCRAMP, standing in the hot sun, enduring the noise of the racing vehicles, coping with the needs of tourists and race fans. People ask why we do it. I usually give a flip answer like “We work for food and this spiffy blue uniform shirt. But the truth is that we do it for our community and for the camaraderie with the other volunteers, who are our friends and neighbors.”

    People from all over the world are amazed to find that this world-class race track is operated by a non-profit and staffed with volunteers. It’s the only one of its kind that is.

    I’m not the greatest race fan. But from Friday night drags at Fremont Drag Strip to Sears Point to Daytona to the Indianapolis 500, I’ve been to a lot of tracks. I’ve even been to the king of them all, the Isle of Man. Wearing my SCRAMP jacket in the rain over there, I was so pleased each time someone came up to me and praised Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and expressed gratitude at what a bunch of volunteers were able to do.

    I’ve also had the rare opportunity to meet other race fans at the track, like Tim Allen, Michael Jordan, Jay Leno, and Paul Newman, each of whom praised the track to me. I saw Alex Zanardi make “The Pass.” I was privileged to squire the late Sir Jack Brabham and Sir Sterling Moss around our facility. I greeted Mr. Suzuki’s helicopter at the raceway’s helipad during a motorcycle race.

    Oh, it’s no secret from the rest of the world that this beautiful, well-run facility is run by a nonprofit corporation. And it’s certainly no secret what the Board of Supervisors is trying to do to it. At the recent Superbike World Championship race, a fan from Ohio approached me on the subject (as I stood in my Information Kiosk, wearing my spiffy blue uniform shirt) and vowed that if the track was given over to ISC, he would never return. I was surprised and dismayed to think that our dirty laundry had made it all the way back to Ohio But a quick check on social media and some fan websites will show that the news is already out there.

    We urge you to contact your Monterey County Supervisor to support and request public review and consideration of SCRAMP to keep revenue local for the benefit of our community and to continue the legacy SCRAMP established in 1957. We, your neighbors and friends, ask for your support. Keep the profit and the benefit here in our community. Our community. Our track.

     

    — marge ann jameson

    posted to Cedar Street Times on August 10, 2015

    Topics: Front PG News, Opinion, Snarkin' With Marge

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