Laguna Seca: Explaining the Rise and Fall of SCRAMP

Photograph Courtesy Porsche

Story By Steven Cole Smith • Photos As Credited

 

And just like that, it was over.

 

After three hours and 18 minutes of mostly one-sided debate, 62 years of racing history came to an end when, on November 19, 2019, the Monterey, California County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to end the Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula’s management of the track it is responsible for building, WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

 

Known as SCRAMP, the organization was formed in 1957 to work with the U.S. Army to build a track on an unused portion of Fort Ord. SCRAMP volunteers raised the $125,000 needed to build the track, and construction began in September of that year. By November, the track was ready to host its first race, drawing more than a hundred entries and 35,000 fans.

 

In the past five years, SCRAMP has fallen out of favor with the county, which holds the deed on the track. Assistant County Administrative Officer Dewayne Woods in particular has had SCRAMP in his sights, accusing the organization of mismanaging Laguna Seca. Indeed, in the past SCRAMP was at least guilty of some confoundedly flatfooted bookkeeping, and while it has tried to turn things around, Woods said that SCRAMP came to the table in November $2.2 million in arrears.

 

Three years ago Woods tried to find another group to run the track, and was in active negotiations with the (now) NASCAR-owned International Speedway Corporation, but ISC backed out, and Woods and the county board reluctantly gave SCRAMP a three-year contract to continue to run the track until the end of 2019. Again, Woods reached out to ISC, but he said they were too busy to take on a new assignment.

 

Fine, because this time around, Woods was more organized. John Narigi, longtime general manager of the Monterey Plaza Hotel and Spa and apparently friend to every council member, appeared from nowhere to create a one-man racetrack management company, and created a proposal so ideal that it’s almost as though Dewayne Woods wrote it himself. A&D Narigi–the “A” and “D” are the first initials of the names of his two sons–is now responsible for the future of Laguna Seca.

 

John Narigi, Courtesy his Twitter

 

Exactly how this happened is unclear. After more than 25 years at the same hotel, Narigi retired, and was thrown a party at a different hotel, with invitations that said the affair was to honor his service and his departure from Monterey, since he is “moving back to the Pacific Northwest.” He apparently changed his mind when a custom-tailored opportunity to run Laguna Seca presented itself.

 

So A&D Narigi submitted a proposal, as did SCRAMP and a company headed by Chris Pook, the veteran promoter known primarily as the founder of the Long Beach Grand Prix.

 

Out of the gate at the November 19 council meeting, Woods gave a lengthy presentation on all the improvements made to the facility, in a sense suggesting, in so many words, that the track’s “return to vibrancy” has been “achieved due to the engagement of the County.” To paraphrase, the past three years have been good for Laguna Seca not because of SCRAMP, but in spite of it, and A&D Narigi was the only viable option going forward. The noose was tightening around SCRAMP’s neck.

 

Of course, SCRAMP is at least partly responsible for digging its own grave. It came into the most recent three-year contract in the hole, and the county bought out SCRAMP’s assets and invested $6.8 million in the track. The argument could be made that the county starved its asset prior to this investment, but that argument was not part of Woods’ presentation.

 

SCRAMP CEO Timothy McGrane was given five minutes to make his case, and he said that Woods “completely overlooked” SCRAMP’s contributions in the past three years and pointed out that you can’t grasp the complexity of motorsports “by looking it up on Google.” 

 

Photograph Courtesy Porsche

 

Over the last 62 years, SCRAMP has raised more than $50 million and pumped it back into the track, McGrane said. Yes, there had been debt accrued, but one reason is that the board loaded unprofitable events onto the track’s shoulders. Such as a bicycle event that the county awarded a 15-year deal, but the contract “severely undervalued” the event’s worth. And there was the council-endorsed World Superbike race that visited Laguna from 2014 to 2018, losing $2.5 million. And it was the council, not SCRAMP, that decided to bring the Superbike event back for 2019, “losing another $800,000,” McGrane said. No one on the council was moved.

 

Next, Chris Pook began his five minutes saying that, “I kind of feel like Daniel in the lion’s den.” Pook, like McGrane, seemed to sense that he was just going through the motions.

 

Last was Narigi, who said that while he has no experience or expertise in racing, he will “entertain” those who do. Sound business practices is what Laguna Seca needs, he said, and his nearly 26-year career at a hotel stands as proof that he understands the hospitality industry. Narigi said he is an “entrepreneurial operator who believes in pushing the envelope.”

 

Forty citizens had signed up to address the board, and they were next. Most expressed support for either SCRAMP or Narigi. One said that he was “watching the assassination of a non-profit organization,” which did not go over well with the board members. But the speaker who drew the loudest applause from the house was Dennis Farber, chairman of the SCRAMP Race and Events committee.

 

Farber pointed out that SCRAMP supplies as many as 700 volunteers a day to run the events, and that those volunteers donated 45,000 hours of time in 2018. While Narigi said he will continue to use those volunteers, “It is presumptive to assume that the volunteers will automatically go to work” for Narigi, Farber said. “No one has approached the volunteer organization to ask if we will support them.” The assumption that the volunteers “will work for a for-profit company, after so many years of supporting a non-profit organization,” is not guaranteed.

 

It’s arguably Narigi’s biggest concern: If a large portion of SCRAMP volunteers decline to donate time to A&D Narigi, what happens then? Like her colleagues, District 5 Supervisor Mary Adams said that she wanted to have the “volunteer cadre continue absolutely in the way it is,” but offered nothing more than an attaboy for that to occur. She has confidence in Narigi, because he is “a turnaround guy, a fix-it person,” but the volunteers must continue to provide free labor for Narigi if his plan is to succeed.

 

The Board of Supervisors weighed in individually, mostly with support for Narigi and near-contempt for SCRAMP. District 1 Supervisor Luis Alejo said that SCRAMP has proven that, “People who know the business have shown that they do not know how to run this business.” He also addressed what he perceived to be an “eleventh-hour smear campaign” by both social media and the conventional media that “bashed” the board unfairly. He was especially annoyed by a story on Racer.com that pointed out that Narigi made campaign contributions to three of the five council members, including Alejo.

 

All that said, not everyone with motorsports credentials is upset about the move. Barry Toepke was vice-president of the track for nearly 10 years, leaving last May to become Director of Marketing and Operations for the New Car Dealers Association in San Diego. “I see this as a positive move,” he told Grassroots Motorsports. “Someone who will run the track as a business.”

 

When the dust clears, Toepke said, he believes the SCRAMP volunteers will line up behind Narigi. “People have to separate SCRAMP’s two entities–there’s the management, and then there’s the volunteers.” The volunteers, he said, are drawn to the track by the events, and they’ll keep coming back.

 

Photograph Courtesy Nissan

 

As for the management, Tim McGrane, SCRAMP CEO, thought this would be his last job. He took over the track on June 1, 2018, after a long history with motorsports and automobiles. McGrane grew up in the shadow of the Brands Hatch track in England, and since moving to the U.S. he has worked with classic car auctions, with events such as the Pebble Beach Concours, and from 2013 until he was recruited by Laguna Seca, he was the executive director of the massive Blackhawk Automotive Museum near San Francisco.

 

His hire was heralded by motorsports pros. Scott Atherton, outgoing IMSA president, ran Laguna Seca from 1993 to 1997; he said at the time that McGrane’s “industry experience, character and personal style will be a perfect fit for the track and the community. A wise choice has been made, and I am very much looking forward to working with Tim in his new role.”

 

Even Dewayne Woods, the architect of McGrane’s demise, praised his hiring. “Tim shares the County’s vision of transforming the raceway into a world-class facility,” Woods said. “The combination of Tim’s experience and the County’s engagement will expedite success in this transformation.”

 

Toepke agrees with that assessment even now, saying that he had a hand in McGrane’s hiring. “Tim inherited a mess,” and he was so busy handling the crisis-of-the-day that he couldn’t get ahead. “It was too much,” Toepke said.

 

McGrane agreed that the job was a challenge, and he knew that going in, but he was hoping for more than 18 months to turn the track around. When several friends suggested to McGrane that he apply for the Laguna Seca job, “I thought they were crazy,” McGrane said. But the more he looked into it, the more he thought he could help.

 

Now, at 60, he told us that he planned to spend a quiet Thanksgiving with his family, then work on his resume–“Something I thought I’d never have to do again.”

 

As for A&D Narigi, the one-man band inherits a busy facility–there’s some sort of on-track action scheduled for 22 of the 31 days in December. Given Narigi’s close ties to the Monterey Board of Supervisors, and their unanimous, enthusiastic, hand-picked endorsement of him, it seems likely that he’ll be cut far more slack than McGrane was.

 

Laguna Seca is a fragile, almost ornamental facility that’s beyond iconic to the racing world. Does John Narigi realize that? We’ll see.

 

Photograph Courtesy Honda

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Comments
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Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
12/2/19 9:56 a.m.

That's a great report on what's going on. Thank you.

bluej
bluej UberDork
12/2/19 10:49 a.m.
Keith Tanner said:

That's a great report on what's going on. Thank you.

Yeah, seriously, Thanks for this.

namoyer
namoyer
12/2/19 11:12 a.m.

So, a one-man "organization" with no race track management experience is going to save Laguna Seca raceway??  SCRAMP may have had it's faults, but the Monterey County Board of Supervisors were never responsible agents after the US Army handed over the track.  Something is rotten here.  

slowbird
slowbird Dork
12/2/19 11:12 a.m.

Very interesting...thanks for the detailed and nuanced report. At least it seems like they are going to try to run the track right and not just set it up for failure so they can bulldoze it and build shopping malls. Keyword is seems. I guess we will just have to wait and see how it goes.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
12/2/19 11:17 a.m.

Shopping malls will never happen there. Mansions would.

slowbird
slowbird Dork
12/2/19 11:31 a.m.

In reply to Keith Tanner :

Pardon my ignorance, I've never been to the area and my brain lumps all of California together...shopping mall and housing complex was the fate of Riverside, my favorite "demolished before I was old enough to understand the concept of demolishing/i wish i had a time machine to go back and see it" track. blush

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/2/19 11:37 a.m.
bluej said:
Keith Tanner said:

That's a great report on what's going on. Thank you.

Yeah, seriously, Thanks for this.

Thank you, thank you. (And tell your friends. smiley )

NOT A TA
NOT A TA SuperDork
12/2/19 11:38 a.m.
slowbird said:

Very interesting...thanks for the detailed and nuanced report. At least it seems like they are going to try to run the track right and not just set it up for failure so they can bulldoze it and build shopping malls. Keyword is seems. I guess we will just have to wait and see how it goes.

Funny that I thought the opposite. Seems like they've found the perfect guy to take the fall and get paid well for it. Collect a nice paycheck for a few years to put in as little effort as possible while things disintegrate without worrying about needing to use the job as experience for another. Just go back to retirement with the extra loot.

If the volunteers go on strike, that creates a quick easy way for the county to find the operation unable to break even.

Then the property can be used for something else.

 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
12/2/19 11:49 a.m.
slowbird said:

In reply to Keith Tanner :

Pardon my ignorance, I've never been to the area and my brain lumps all of California together...shopping mall and housing complex was the fate of Riverside, my favorite "demolished before I was old enough to understand the concept of demolishing/i wish i had a time machine to go back and see it" track. blush

There are some very different parts of California. Riverside was in a very populous area - basically, LA. Laguna Seca is in the inland hills between a super high money high prestige area and agriculture. Throw a golf course in the midfield/paddock area and put a few houses ringing it and you'll do very well. The houses will likely have nods to racing theme to celebrate the heritage of the site, ignoring the fact that they killed the very thing they are celebrating in that classic tone-deaf manner. 

Tahoe
Tahoe Reader
12/2/19 12:02 p.m.

Didn't  know they still build shopping malls. How sad the way this went down. SCRAMP was not perfect, but the Narigi thing sounds like a failure waiting to happen. Maybe that's the plan. With all the slick deals going down maybe they'll build a resort there and have a zipline going down the cork screw.

alfadriver
alfadriver MegaDork
12/2/19 12:04 p.m.

The whole volunteer thing will only matter to who they "work" for.

For instance, if my club rented the track for $15,000, and I could bring my own corner workers, then the workers would work for my club, and benefit the club.

Or if Indycar rented the track for $100k, they could bring their own workers in the same manner.

On the other hand, if Indycar rents the track for $100k, expecting the track to provide all of the workers- then that's a very different equation.  If it were me, I would very much question where all the money is going before I donated my time for the Indycar event.   Or perhaps if A&D Negiri pays Indycar a fee to come to the track so that they can have an event, and the profit all comes from people attending the event plus concessions- so that many of the workers are directly working to cover the cost plus make a profit- I really can't see people actually donating time to a for profit entity.

But that's just me.

FWIW, I've rented tracks on behalf of a car club, and have paid people that the track suggested to replace our members doing the work- so that we could all enjoy ourselves a little more for a small fee.  

Tom1200
Tom1200 Dork
12/2/19 12:13 p.m.

David add me to mix of "well done" your report covered all of the aspects as the situation.

I am hopeful as perhaps when an insider tells the board certain types of events are total money losers they will now listen. Time will tell.

Strike_Zero
Strike_Zero UltraDork
12/2/19 12:22 p.m.
Steven Cole Smith said:

 

 ​​​Farber pointed out that SCRAMP supplies as many as 700 volunteers a day to run the events, and that those volunteers donated 45,000 hours of time in 2018. While Narigi said he will continue to use those volunteers, “It is presumptive to assume that the volunteers will automatically go to work” for Narigi, Farber said. “No one has approached the volunteer organization to ask if we will support them.” The assumption that the volunteers “will work for a for-profit company, after so many years of supporting a non-profit organization,” is not guaranteed.

 

It’s arguably Narigi’s biggest concern: If a large portion of SCRAMP volunteers decline to donate time to A&D Narigi, what happens then?

". . . what happens then?" is a good question.

dculberson
dculberson MegaDork
12/2/19 12:22 p.m.
alfadriver said:I really can't see people actually donating time to a for profit entity.

Not only that, for-profit entities are not allowed to use volunteer labor. So who they're volunteering for really matters. Indycar could not use volunteer labor, they must pay their workers minimum wage.

_
_ Dork
12/2/19 12:25 p.m.

Having been to LS, and having it be my favorite track of all time, I'm glad to hear things aren't shutting down. 

slowbird
slowbird Dork
12/2/19 12:30 p.m.
Strike_Zero said:
Steven Cole Smith said:

 

 ​​​Farber pointed out that SCRAMP supplies as many as 700 volunteers a day to run the events, and that those volunteers donated 45,000 hours of time in 2018. While Narigi said he will continue to use those volunteers, “It is presumptive to assume that the volunteers will automatically go to work” for Narigi, Farber said. “No one has approached the volunteer organization to ask if we will support them.” The assumption that the volunteers “will work for a for-profit company, after so many years of supporting a non-profit organization,” is not guaranteed.

 

It’s arguably Narigi’s biggest concern: If a large portion of SCRAMP volunteers decline to donate time to A&D Narigi, what happens then?

". . . what happens then?" is a good question.

Hmmm. Good question indeed.

Then again, if the county threatens to shut the track down, all those volunteers *might* show up and chain themselves to the bulldozers, or at least that's what I hope they would do.

But yeah, the county should not count on getting the volunteer turnout that SCRAMP did. If they do then they are fooling themselves.

My opinion has shifted more negatively since my first comment.

racer_tim
racer_tim
12/2/19 12:34 p.m.

Don't forget that SCRAMP went to the County to ask for more venues to generate $$$ the the county turned them down.  The mullion dollar home owners were the most vocal about additional venues due to sound and traffic.  You can't complain when you buy a house next to a race track, then complain about the noise and traffic.  The BoD caved to those multi million dollar home owners.  How typical these days.

Also, the $$$ that SCRAMP earned and gave the County didn't directly go to Laguna Seca,  it went into the general Parks and Rec funds, that were then divvied up to all the other county parks.  The County has handcuffed SCRAMP for years.

The A&D stand for his sons, that one was killed in an accident on South Boundary road, and filed a lawsuit against the track, that was settled out of court, and the file was destroyed in 2016.  How convenient.  

 

 

 

wearymicrobe
wearymicrobe UberDork
12/2/19 12:46 p.m.

Mark my words this will end up with LS looking like Thermal in 5 years. They will find a way to build out on this no question. 

_
_ Dork
12/2/19 12:49 p.m.

Just hold out till everything is electric. Then there will be no noise ordinance. 

alfadriver
alfadriver MegaDork
12/2/19 12:55 p.m.
racer_tim said:

Don't forget that SCRAMP went to the County to ask for more venues to generate $$$ the the county turned them down.  The mullion dollar home owners were the most vocal about additional venues due to sound and traffic.  You can't complain when you buy a house next to a race track, then complain about the noise and traffic.  The BoD caved to those multi million dollar home owners.  How typical these days.

Also, the $$$ that SCRAMP earned and gave the County didn't directly go to Laguna Seca,  it went into the general Parks and Rec funds, that were then divvied up to all the other county parks.  The County has handcuffed SCRAMP for years.

The A&D stand for his sons, that one was killed in an accident on South Boundary road, and filed a lawsuit against the track, that was settled out of court, and the file was destroyed in 2016.  How convenient.  

 

 

 

These days?  The issue of people moving to someplace loud, and then complaining has been going on for decades.  This is hardly a new thing.  Don't put that anywhere near something new.  And it's not just rich people- when home prices were cheap enough near airports, complaints happened, and routes had to change.  

I've seen this happen in a moderately sized town in Idaho, and I know it's happened here in Detroit.  For sure, it has happened near where race tracks have been for decades.  

Just want to point that out.

Tom1200
Tom1200 Dork
12/2/19 12:56 p.m.

Every event from F1 to SCCA club racing relies on "volunteer" corner workers as well as other postions. I've worked in various spots from tech inspection to corner worker to spotter for USAC, SCCA, IMSA, NASCAR, AMA and a couple more and never got paid a dime................they all fed me lunch of course and some of the lunches were even quite good. 

Where are people suddenly getting the idea that race workers get paid when currently at most tracks across the country very few race workers get paid for the weekend.

L5wolvesf
L5wolvesf Reader
12/2/19 12:58 p.m.
racer_tim said:

The A&D stand for his sons, that one was killed in an accident on South Boundary road, and filed a lawsuit against the track, that was settled out of court, and the file was destroyed in 2016.  How convenient.  

Agreed, but I did not see where this was mentioned in the post here.

Toyman01
Toyman01 MegaDork
12/2/19 1:09 p.m.

This really sounds like the beginning of the end to me. 

Get rid of "racing" management. 

Bring in "business" management to save it.

Prove that it just doesn't work and decide to transition to something else that also doesn't work. 

Sell off property to "developers" for a nominal amount. 

I wonder if there are any developers on the current board or current board members that are owned by one. 

alfadriver
alfadriver MegaDork
12/2/19 1:14 p.m.

The thing about forcing the track to close for some rich locals misses the fact that the track has supported some ridiculously rich car owners over time.  

There are HUGE cubic dollars on both sides of this.

Toyman01
Toyman01 MegaDork
12/2/19 1:21 p.m.

In reply to alfadriver :

Yes, but in the current enviroment, the rich are largely despised and rich race car owners are frequently the wrong kind of rich. 

 

_
_ Dork
12/2/19 1:21 p.m.

In reply to alfadriver :

The rich fellas on our side need to step up to the plate. Sadly, they are too busy making cubic dollars. 

Robbie
Robbie MegaDork
12/2/19 1:31 p.m.

So, if operating Laguna seca is a money losing proposition (which is my current understanding):

It goes to follow that the county must pay the difference. Which then goes to follow that the citizens of the county pay the county to pay the difference. 

If the citizens elect the officials and don't want to keep paying for something...

1. Should the citizens be able to decide to stop funding the track if they don't want to fund it? (And yes, they should first look at not only the track budget but also the tourism bump it gives the entire area, of course)

2. If you were an elected official and were getting pressure from your constituents to stop funding something but you wanted that something to stay, isn't the easiest solution to try to get that thing to stop needing funding in the first place?

I mean, it wouldn't make me happy to see a track go. But I don't know how to justify continuing to sink money into something without demanding change.

alfadriver
alfadriver MegaDork
12/2/19 1:46 p.m.
_ said:

In reply to alfadriver :

The rich fellas on our side need to step up to the plate. Sadly, they are too busy making cubic dollars. 

After thinking about it some time, I think it's a good idea to not put people on Side 1 and Side 2.  Or "us" vs "them"- I suspect that this issue is a LOT more complex than just people who want homes in that area vs. people who want a race track.  

As Robbie has pointed out, the local area does get a lot of business with the track being there- for them to actually think that the track HAS TO MAKE MONEY OR ELSE is probably not what most of them think- as there's more to the local economy than just a bunch of gear heads going around the track.

I sometimes think that some of the motorsports reporting is trying to be that way, and not really spending the time to get deep into understanding the where the opponents of the old managment are coming from.  All we saw was a brief "creative accounting" being listed.  Given that the local board actively got events for the track, it's pretty clear that they are not really interested in shutting the track down.  What I read is that they have unrealistic expectations of events, which may have cause the track to loose some money.

There are a lot of sides to Laguna Seca.  Not 2.

OldGray320i
OldGray320i Dork
12/2/19 1:49 p.m.

I'd like to have seen more detail on the events that the board forced on SCRAMP; how does the board dictate events at the track, is that part of the contract?  Who provides the cost estimates and a reasonable determination of what cost should be, and who signs off for the approval?

They're sandbagging the SCRAMP guy if they're doing that. 

There's a reason the Long Beach guy made the comment he did, these guys work these kinds of things all the time and know when there's something amiss in the process.

ISC backed out of the prior effort and there's a reason they did, as well.   Again, these guys know how to do this, and know when something is amiss.  Strengthens SCRAMP guy's argument that the board has their finger on the scale.  Why else would ISC back out of the prior effort?

It's time to start looking at who on the board is tied with developers (and the original references pointed out that several were tied to their friends boards, IIRC, including the A&D guy...).

What was provided in the article just adds to my belief this a total sham.

z31maniac
z31maniac MegaDork
12/2/19 2:13 p.m.
Robbie said:

So, if operating Laguna seca is a money losing proposition (which is my current understanding):

It goes to follow that the county must pay the difference. Which then goes to follow that the citizens of the county pay the county to pay the difference. 

If the citizens elect the officials and don't want to keep paying for something...

1. Should the citizens be able to decide to stop funding the track if they don't want to fund it? (And yes, they should first look at not only the track budget but also the tourism bump it gives the entire area, of course)

2. If you were an elected official and were getting pressure from your constituents to stop funding something but you wanted that something to stay, isn't the easiest solution to try to get that thing to stop needing funding in the first place?

I mean, it wouldn't make me happy to see a track go. But I don't know how to justify continuing to sink money into something without demanding change.

I agree. Same as municipalities subsidizing golf course's. Why should my tax dollars be used to cheapen entertainment options for other well off people*?

*Well off people - While I realize that is a generalization, at least in this part of the country, no one is driving an '87 Cavalier to the golf courses. 

rdcyclist
rdcyclist Reader
12/2/19 2:17 p.m.

This article along with the referenced "Racer" magazine article give a pretty full accounting for what went on there. Here's the Racer article: https://racer.com/2019/11/19/insight-monterey-county-sham/

You've got to figure if ISC and Chris Pook can't or aren't willing to take on such a historic racetrack, something's fishy...

 

rdcyclist
rdcyclist Reader
12/2/19 2:18 p.m.
z31maniac said:
...

*Well off people - While I realize that is a generalization, at least in this part of the country, no one is driving an '87 Cavalier to the golf courses. 

I'm not sure anybody's driving an '87 Cavalier anymore. Can't remember the last time I saw one on the side of the road...

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
12/2/19 2:19 p.m.

Now I'm going to go check for '87 Cavaliers in the golf course parking lot here in town. It's possible.

About ISC - they actually backed out after the due diligence period. Something told them it was not a viable track.

From  Sportscar365:Sportscar365:

ISC wouldn’t submit a proposal due to “findings following our evaluation and in light of several business factors.”

Also within the Herald report was a note that ISC alleged the track’s longtime manager, the Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula (SCRAMP) was unable to cooperate or assist in the manner needed

_
_ Dork
12/2/19 3:42 p.m.
no one is driving an '87 Cavalier to the golf courses. 

No one is driving an '87 cavalier ever. 
 

Edit- beaten to it. 

_
_ Dork
12/2/19 4:04 p.m.

Can there be such a thing as a communitee owned raceway? Something that is deemed a "park", and has the capacity to be "reserved" by private groups that have the insurance and such for hosting events? And any other time of the day, it's just a public park. Go ahead walk your dog, ride your bike. Whatever. No vehicles allowed, unless reserved for that purpose. 
 

this way the land is useful, and generates income for the county/city/whatever. 

Vigo
Vigo MegaDork
12/2/19 4:07 p.m.

Well, this looks exactly like it looked last time we talked about it, except worse because now some of what seemed inevitable has already occurred.

"Assassination of a non-profit" sounds about right. I'm grimly curious for more detail on how that 'didn't go over well' with the board. 

Forcing the track into money-losing obligations leading to the current situation sounds like classic 'starve the beast'. Well, the real meaning of it if not so much the textbook definition. 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
12/2/19 4:25 p.m.
_ said:

Can there be such a thing as a communitee owned raceway? Something that is deemed a "park", and has the capacity to be "reserved" by private groups that have the insurance and such for hosting events? And any other time of the day, it's just a public park. Go ahead walk your dog, ride your bike. Whatever. No vehicles allowed, unless reserved for that purpose. 
 

this way the land is useful, and generates income for the county/city/whatever. 

I think that’s what Pueblo Motorsport Park in CO is. City-owned. 

Javelin
Javelin MegaDork
12/2/19 4:35 p.m.
_ said:

Can there be such a thing as a communitee owned raceway? Something that is deemed a "park", and has the capacity to be "reserved" by private groups that have the insurance and such for hosting events? And any other time of the day, it's just a public park. Go ahead walk your dog, ride your bike. Whatever. No vehicles allowed, unless reserved for that purpose. 
 

this way the land is useful, and generates income for the county/city/whatever. 

Portland International Raceway is a city park. It makes so much money that it covers all it's own expenses and puts $$$$$ back into the parks fund.

Todd Butler
Todd Butler
12/2/19 5:06 p.m.

Lot of similarities between LS and Portland, in that they are County (LS) or City owned (PIR). Which means that the tracks are often forced to take on green or eco-friendly activities like bicycles or running events other activities that lose money. And part of the revenue from the tracks goes into general County/City coffers instead of being re-invested in the track. It’s part of the downfall of being local gov’ment owned.

 

The whole award process was rigged based on the Racer article, particularly if you look at the timing. However, Chris Pook or SCRAMP have to care enough about the opportunity to lawyer-up to contest the award and then face the fact that the County Supervisors would likely be hostile. It’s a no win situation for them given the County fingers in event selection, scheduling and sound regulating.

 

Finally, one thing that people are missing is that the track contributes significantly to the County revenue base. Without LS, property taxes increase to finance parks and recreation and general fund. So while the award process was rigged, the County really can’t (seriously? secretly?) be setting it up for failure. One hopes anyway!

bmw88rider
bmw88rider UltraDork
12/2/19 5:22 p.m.

In reply to dculberson :

Not 100% true. If you look at motorsports, it's an interesting thing.

I have volunteered for COTA and other F1 facilities. I have also voluteered for Scramp. The tracks are all for profit and they make the arrangements for the labor to support the series. ISC did pay but it was minimal. Much much less than actual minimum wage. 

 

If you look at F1 at COTA, there is over 15000 volunteer hours at the event easily. 

 

Motorsports doesn't survive without volunteers. 

bmw88rider
bmw88rider UltraDork
12/2/19 5:24 p.m.

In reply to Keith Tanner :

You are correct Keith. The race track which includes a dragstrip and motocross trails is all a city park. 

captdownshift
captdownshift UltimaDork
12/2/19 5:53 p.m.
Keith Tanner said:

Shopping malls will never happen there. Mansions would.

And golf courses, as the peninsula doesn't have nearly enough of them..

captdownshift
captdownshift UltimaDork
12/2/19 5:55 p.m.

In reply to Keith Tanner :

Damn it I should've read the entire thread before quoting you and replying to a previous post you made. As it's clear that you're also in tune to EXACTLY what's likely to happen. 

Tom1200
Tom1200 Dork
12/2/19 6:01 p.m.

@Todd Butler; I mentioned this in the other post. By California state law the county was under no obligation to compete this. Professional services are exempt from competitive bidding so there is no process to rig. They could have simply given a contract to whomever they pleased.

I am not surprised about SCRAMPs complaint of having losers shoved down there throat but at the end of the day the county does have legitimate complaints about the organization.

Me personally I would never enter into a contract that didn't give me complete control of the facility. I'd want it to be a case of leasing the facility at X price for X months. If truly pressed I would allow the county X number of days for special events but having some politician meddling in the running of events, no thank you. As A & D is an insider perhaps they'll heed his advice.

Once upon a time what is now the Las Vegas Motor Speedway was known as the Speedrome and it was owned by the city. The bureaucracy made things difficult for event promoters, especially smaller groups.

alfadriver
alfadriver MegaDork
12/2/19 6:07 p.m.
captdownshift said:
Keith Tanner said:

Shopping malls will never happen there. Mansions would.

And golf courses, as the peninsula doesn't have nearly enough of them..

I dunno about you, but I think Laguna Seca would make a terrible golf course.  While it's not far from the coast, it's also a very, very dry area.  While you could put one there, it would be super expensive to keep it going, and it would not really compare to the ones close by, which probably need very little support from nature to work quite well.  Heck, given the better places up and down the coast, it would also make a pretty poor location to grow grapes.

It's not as if the surrounding hills and mountains have much there encroaching the area- there are just a bunch of dirt roads..  

There are so many better places for wine, homes, and golf courses near by, I just can't see that as the core reason.

captdownshift
captdownshift UltimaDork
12/2/19 6:07 p.m.
_ said:

In reply to alfadriver :

The rich fellas on our side need to step up to the plate. Sadly, they are too busy making cubic dollars. 

You're failing to see where the other side will always win. The other side is land developers. County officials who have projects to award contracts for always have developer friends who donate to their campaigns and contribute to their getting re-election. The race tire distributor isn't going to get spec tires in order to utilize HOV lanes voted into law by the county, so they have nothing to gain by purchasing a councilman, or by running their own campaign. Now a developer on the other hand, they can get zoning approval, a contract to put the roads in paid for by the county for the project that they're the one who needs the roads for, all in exchange for a discounted lot and a few grand into the warchest. 

The fact that the county was booking the venue out for events they KNEW lost money for SCRAMP all but confirms this sort of nonsense. LS will be gone by 2030, and likely 2025 and it won't be noise ordinances that will do it in. 

Dave M
Dave M HalfDork
12/2/19 6:24 p.m.


M

 

 

Finally, one thing that people are missing is that the track contributes significantly to the County revenue base. Without LS, property taxes increase to finance parks and recreation and general fund. So while the award process was rigged, the County really can’t (seriously? secretly?) be setting it up for failure. One hopes anyway!

 

Great article!

I can't imagine the racetrack is a major source of revenue given the other (extremely valuable) things in the county.  Tourism and real estate rule the roost, just like everywhere else in coastal CA.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
12/2/19 6:44 p.m.
alfadriver said:
captdownshift said:
Keith Tanner said:

Shopping malls will never happen there. Mansions would.

And golf courses, as the peninsula doesn't have nearly enough of them..

I dunno about you, but I think Laguna Seca would make a terrible golf course.  While it's not far from the coast, it's also a very, very dry area.  While you could put one there, it would be super expensive to keep it going, and it would not really compare to the ones close by, which probably need very little support from nature to work quite well.  Heck, given the better places up and down the coast, it would also make a pretty poor location to grow grapes.

It's not as if the surrounding hills and mountains have much there encroaching the area- there are just a bunch of dirt roads..  

There are so many better places for wine, homes, and golf courses near by, I just can't see that as the core reason.

Golf courses have nothing to do with golf. They're a way of creating real estate.

Ski resorts are the same.

LarryNH
LarryNH New Reader
12/2/19 7:15 p.m.

Car Week brings thousands of people and millions of dollars to the Monterey Peninsula.  The Historics at LS have been a huge part of the week.  The weekend before is the Pre-Historics and the closing weekend (Friday through Sunday) is the Historics.  All lodging and dining are packed and charge premium prices.  I paid $450 for one night at a Ramada Limited 10 years ago during the Historics.  I knew a jeweler in Carmel that made 80% of its annual revenue in that one week. 
 

in my opinion, closing LS would have a huge negative impact on Car Week.  The week needs the rich historic racers and the fans to have the auction attendance. 
 

I hope the track succeeds.  The area doesn't need another golf course (there is one next to the track entrance on Highway 68) and they don't have the water to keep it green.

 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
12/2/19 7:35 p.m.

Doesn't Car Week exist because of the Historics?

bmw88rider
bmw88rider UltraDork
12/2/19 8:09 p.m.

Tough to say Keith. The concours started in 1950 which was before LS was there. The growth over the last 15 years I think has as much to do with the growth of the auction scene there.  

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
12/2/19 8:12 p.m.

Ah, I thought "Car week" grew up around the Historics. I agree that the event would survive pretty well today without the track portion.

Vigo
Vigo MegaDork
12/2/19 9:36 p.m.

 the other side will always win. The other side is land developers. County officials who have projects to award contracts for always have developer friends who donate to their campaigns and contribute to their getting re-elected

100%.  

 

 

jr02518
jr02518 Reader
12/3/19 12:12 a.m.

As a "volunteer" from 1983 to 1987 I have fond memories of great events and very early mornings getting to the track.  I worked Indy car events, IMSA and the historics.  My introduction to the gig came from one of my co-workers in the restaurant industry who had a special needs child that was part of support group that received funding in part based on their providing volunteer's to the raceway.

I was willing to trade my time for the benefit of my co-workers child.  Yes, I has access to the events at no cost and could go to any part of the track when my time was done completing my given task.  It was a fair trade.

I would like to find out how it will be working out going forward.  Having the county more directly in the mix does not give me much hope.

David

codrus
codrus UberDork
12/3/19 12:55 a.m.
Keith Tanner said:

Ah, I thought "Car week" grew up around the Historics. I agree that the event would survive pretty well today without the track portion.

"Car week" grew up around the pair of events that took place the same weekend, I don't think we'd have seen the same growth if it had just been the Pebble Beach Concours.  But yes, most of the growth is in the auction area (more auctions, larger auctions, etc) -- the track is pretty much fully booked that week so it's hard to add more vintage racing. :)

morello159
morello159 Reader
12/3/19 10:12 a.m.

I'm glad I was able to drive this track a couple times - I have fond memories of watching the ALMS series there with my dad as a kid. I'd then run home and play the same track on Gran Turismo - one of my favorites. The only time I've ever damaged a car on track was at LS as well - heavy rain created canyons in the sand traps and just two wheels off track right completely destroyed the passenger side suspension of my car. 

I give it 3-5 years before they either build luxury condo/garages on it a la VIR (I'm ok with this) or it shuts down. 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/3/19 11:54 a.m.

In reply to morello159 :

First time I drove Laguna Seca--might have been a Subaru press event--I thought, Hey, this is just like Gran Turismo!

racer_tim
racer_tim New Reader
12/3/19 12:16 p.m.

In reply to slowbird :

I don't think the deed will allow them to bulldoze the track, but it does seem like that is the County's overall direction it wants to go. 

racer_tim
racer_tim New Reader
12/3/19 12:22 p.m.

In reply to L5wolvesf :

It was in Marshall Pruett's post a week or so ago in Racer Magazine

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
12/3/19 12:23 p.m.
David S. Wallens said:

In reply to morello159 :

First time I drove Laguna Seca--might have been a Subaru press event--I thought, Hey, this is just like Gran Turismo!

First time I drove, going around T5 - wow, this is uphill! T6. Still uphill! The game didn't give me any indication of just how vertical that track is.

codrus
codrus UberDork
12/3/19 1:26 p.m.
racer_tim said:

In reply to slowbird :

I don't think the deed will allow them to bulldoze the track, but it does seem like that is the County's overall direction it wants to go. 

Yeah, I would be curious to know what the conditions were for the transfer from the Army to the County.

rdcyclist
rdcyclist Reader
12/3/19 2:08 p.m.
Keith Tanner said:

First time I drove, going around T5 - wow, this is uphill! T6. Still uphill! The game didn't give me any indication of just how vertical that track is.

I'd been going to Laguna for many years as crew and even did a few ride-alongs (the one with Frank Leary in an IMSA GT 280z was especially memorable) and didn't get the true indication of that climb until I rode the track in a bicycle race (the referenced money loser) in, I think, 1993. About the 8th lap, I was doing tacks at the top. It about killed me...

The descent was really something though!

trakktapedude
trakktapedude New Reader
12/3/19 2:44 p.m.

Does the track still have pretty serious noise restrictions? I thought they only had a fixed number of days each year without limits. 

I am still, like most of us, not sure where this is going, but since I live in Palm Springs and watched Riverside get bulldozed, I have my concerns about this path.  (I was lucky and got to drive RIR many, many times. Yep, it was FAST and just great!)

My best guess would be adding residential to the area around the track. All over the country, golf courses are closing and trying to find out what to do instead. I am a retired architect and it is a real problem, according to some of my peers.  

At least, with the track, they have a marketing hook to sell the houses. In my opinion, those houses would have more value if there is something to watch. Most would probably be second homes, I think. Even the most rabid would probably tire of actually being that close to the action, all the time. 

Well, popcorn time!

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim MegaDork
12/3/19 3:22 p.m.
trakktapedude said:

Does the track still have pretty serious noise restrictions? I thought they only had a fixed number of days each year without limits.

Yes, still has the strictly enforced limits. I don't see that changing.

 

OpusthePoet
OpusthePoet New Reader
12/4/19 12:42 a.m.
Toyman01 said:

This really sounds like the beginning of the end to me. 

Get rid of "racing" management. 

Bring in "business" management to save it.

Prove that it just doesn't work and decide to transition to something else that also doesn't work. 

Sell off property to "developers" for a nominal amount. 

I wonder if there are any developers on the current board or current board members that are owned by one. 

Get up, go outside, and do something. - Me, mostly talking to myself.

I want to see how the county Government is vis-a-vis developers and development adjacent interests. I also suspect some degree of coziness between the two.

Dennis Kazmerowski
Dennis Kazmerowski New Reader
12/4/19 7:38 a.m.

WELL SAD TO SEE,  We have been racing out there for over 20yrs  coming from the east.  We loved every trip out there and the people and friends we made became more important than the racing . So we now have a NON RACE GUY RUNNING THE TRACK. You can argue that maybe he will bring some business sense to the program and he will run it like a business but you had some serious race car (WELL RESPECTED BUSINESSMEN ALSO MAKING BIDS )   I think you have to look at the   BOARD OF SUPERVISORS and see how this whole thing really came down. It does not smell great . And if  iam not mistaken the guy who has now taken over the track was involved in a lawsuit against the track several yrs ago.  WOW  ---OH WELL WE WILL SEE HOW IT PLAYS OUT .    They say a CAMEL is a race horse designed by  committee    SORRY TO SEE  RACE CAR BUSINESSMEN ARE NOT INVOLVED -----HMMMM If racing at LS is on your bucket list , dust  off your race car and do it but bring your golf clubs because it might  be a  TRUMP NATIONAL GOLF COURSE  instead--I HOPE NOT ---------THANK YOU SCRAMP FOR ALL THE YEARS AND SUPPORT YOU HAVE GIVEN

wspohn
wspohn Dork
12/4/19 10:50 a.m.

Is it just me, or does Narigi look like Bill Murray, if someone stole his hair....

svchev
svchev
12/4/19 12:11 p.m.

In reply to dculberson :

Not so they use local club Flaggers who are vollenteers

 

Summazooma
Summazooma
12/4/19 7:45 p.m.

Disappointed...

I grew up in the San Joaquin Valley to non-English speakers and first visited Laguna Seca when my brother talked our mom into taking us to the Historics in 1976. It was a pivotal experience for me, as a 13 yr. old, and probably had one of the most profound influences on me, as I eventually went to Art Center to study automotive design. From that first experience in 76, I ended up making pilgrimages to the peninsula for "the week" for 24 out of 26 years. 

Magical moments included meeting Fangio at the track, going to  the polo fields at dawn to photograph cars as they were offloaded and prepped for the Concours, before buying tickets to go out on the 18th fairway. When the Italianno became an event, I began attending that, as well.

When we had our own kids, in concert with increases in costs, it got harder to do our annual pilgrimage but we didn't stop, started to rent a house with a friend with his wife and kids (the same ages as our own kids). At Italianno, we'd walk amongst the gorgeous cars, in an atmosphere that was ideal for introducing our families to the hobby, and (when the kids showed signs of needing to blow off some energy) let our kids run wild on a fairway adjacent to where the cars were collected. 

I'd also take our kids to the track on Thursday (is it still free on Thursday?) and I was always impressed by how nice the vehicle owners & crews were to my kids, letting then sit in their cars, while I drooled over the cars of my heroes (AAR Eagle Westlake, Sunoco Camaro, Aston DBR, among others). 

I'd joined the Iso Bizzarrini Owners Club (IBOC) when I was younger because the car that first caught my imagination as a kid was the Grifo, and prices were within reach, something I thought might always be the case, given the SBC "heart". Then prices seemingly tripled overnight and that dream died. I eventually let my membership lapse, but seeing those cars rise in prominence at Italianno was thrilling, if bittersweet.

I remember when I first heard that SCRAMP was a non-profit; I thought that it was a brilliant idea to have a track run as a non-profit, relieving the pressure to make a profit, even as I was beginning to wean myself from the annual pilgrimage because of the increasingly incredible costs of attending. The track was a beacon of hope. 

Over the past 5 years, though, as I learned more about the contract issues, I began to fear that the pressures that had made everything else, seemingly, associated with (what had been) my favorite week of the year so expensive, could completely kill Laguna Seca.

Don't get me wrong; I've always wanted to see F1 come to the Peninsula. Even recognizing that the track and facilities would have to be improved, and likely make it inaccessible, I would be (just as I was when the Grifo had increased I value out of my reach) thrilled for it.

Now, though, I can easily imagine a future without it.

Another disappointing sign that automotive enthusiasm for the masses may be at risk.

Dave M
Dave M HalfDork
12/5/19 7:57 a.m.

In reply to Summazooma :

I don't think LS could ever be appropriate for modern F1 cars without completely changing the track. Let alone the facilities investment.. Not likely even under private ownership!

codrus
codrus UberDork
12/5/19 11:33 a.m.
Dave M said:

In reply to Summazooma :

I don't think LS could ever be appropriate for modern F1 cars without completely changing the track. Let alone the facilities investment.. Not likely even under private ownership!

It's been discussed a few times, IIRC the track itself isn't far off the safety standards required by the FIA and wouldn't require a ton of changes to meet them.  It's shorter than any of the current F1 tracks by a bit, though.

The pit & hospitality facilities are way off, as is the capacity of the local roads & hotels to manage the crowds that would be expected to attend.

 

b13990
b13990 Reader
12/7/19 4:05 p.m.
wspohn said:

Is it just me, or does Narigi look like Bill Murray, if someone stole his hair....

"Just a Cinderella boy, tears in his eyes, I guess, as he lines up for the last curve... normally reserved Laguna Seca crowd goes wild..."

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/7/19 4:06 p.m.

In reply to b13990 :

Ha. 

Matt
Matt Reader
12/7/19 8:40 p.m.

Beyond iconic indeed. I’m amazed at the amount of conversation this has generated. I’ve never been to the track and can’t comment on the pro/cons of what has happened, other than it’s less of the end of an era, or more the dawn of a new one. I am just glad Laguna Seca still there and hope it still will be when I’m finally ready to drive the corkscrew (and I hope they will still let a privateer check off a box on his bucket list). 

AnthonyGS
AnthonyGS Dork
12/7/19 11:28 p.m.

In reply to alfadriver :

Small potatoes.....   oh what a reference too.

toldfield
toldfield New Reader
12/9/19 12:42 p.m.

In reply to codrus :

We were told that the track was a tenth of a mile and ten million dollars short to host F-1.   But what a show it would be!

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
12/9/19 12:46 p.m.

I wonder how F1 would react to the "runoff" outside turn 6. A little bit of gravel, some tires and then air. I suspect that would be a pretty fast corner for an F1 car.

z31maniac
z31maniac MegaDork
12/9/19 3:05 p.m.
Keith Tanner said:

I wonder how F1 would react to the "runoff" outside turn 6. A little bit of gravel, some tires and then air. I suspect that would be a pretty fast corner for an F1 car.

Asphalt and banking to keep cars from flying into the fence?

That would be what, a 150+ mph corner for F1?

RobertHess
RobertHess New Reader
12/10/19 9:18 a.m.

Great article. Thanks!

lyleseven
lyleseven
12/10/19 10:51 p.m.

The whole thing sounds incestuous to me!  A favorite of the Council taking over from an experienced track operator?  Good luck!  

Dennis Kazmerowski
Dennis Kazmerowski New Reader
12/11/19 6:46 a.m.

I HOPE THE COMMENTS STAY  ON THE ISSUE HERE .   IT'S NOT ABOUT BRINGING IN F1 BUT KEEPING THIS BELOVED TRACK GOING .     THE WHOLE THING SMELLS BADLY  BUT IF YOU  HEAR ABOUT THE PLAYERS INVOLVED---NOT SURPRISING ---THIS MAKES NATIONAL GOVERNMENT LOOK GOOD   I GUESS YOU CAN SAY ((((  NO COLLUSION ))))   OH BOY

  AGAIN THANKS SCRAMP FOR ALL YOUR PAST SUPPORT

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