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Ventura County

Ventura Raceway May Have Run Its Course

Recreation: Fair Board today will discuss track's contract amid noise concerns. It also is considering other options for Seaside Park.

September 17, 2002|JESSICA BLANCHARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

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Seaside Park could be transformed from a noisy raceway to a concert venue under one scenario being considered by the Ventura County Fair Board as it attempts to create a master plan for the park.

The board at 9 a.m. today will discuss renewing its contract with Ventura Raceway, which sponsors weekend races referred to by some residents as the "roar by the shore."

Board President Greg Carson said the panel is developing a master plan for the county fairgrounds and is considering ways to change the park's layout to increase revenue and better serve residents.

The raceway has been a fixture at the fairgrounds for 25 years, but some residents have complained in recent years about excessive noise and lighting generated by the weekend races and midweek practices.

Carson said the board's options include limiting the number of nights the track is used for racing, making it available for concerts or other events, or eliminating the raceway altogether.

"I don't have a preconceived idea of what it should be," Carson said. "But I think the property needs to be better utilized for the benefit of the entire community."

Raceway promoter Jim Naylor said he realizes the weekly races don't generate a great deal of revenue, but he said the track is an integral part of the community, drawing more than 1,000 on some nights and providing low-cost entertainment for families.

Naylor also said the track is the only facility of its kind in the region. If it were to close, he said, drivers and fans would have to travel more than 100 miles to reach another racetrack.

"We are living up to what a fairgrounds should be," Naylor said. "This is not about dollars and cents. This is Americana."

Naylor said he is sympathetic about noise concerns, and has been working with exhaust engineers to create mufflers for the race cars. He's also tried to reduce noise by adding trees and other landscaping.

"We've tried to be as good a neighbor as we can," he said, adding that the noise level is monitored during each race to ensure that it doesn't become excessive.

Despite Naylor's efforts, city officials have heard numerous complaints over the years from neighbors of the fairgrounds.

Stephen Simms, who lives about two miles from the raceway, said he can hear the noise from his home on some weekends, even with his double-paned windows shut. For the last three years, he has lobbied to get racetrack noise curbed.

"I think if they put new mufflers on [the cars], it wouldn't be as big of a problem," Simms said. "But all it takes is one car without a muffler."

Ventura Councilman Carl Morehouse said residents have complained for years about the noise, and that he occasionally hears the roar from his home near Ventura College.

"I have several friends who are closely affiliated with the races, and really enjoy it," Morehouse said. "But I wouldn't be crushed if it went away."

But Councilman Jim Monahan said he would be saddened if the raceway was eliminated. "I hope they do renew the contract," he said, adding that several famous drivers had gotten their start at the Ventura track. "I would hate to see it go away. It's been a tradition in Ventura."

The meeting will be held at the Derby Club at Seaside Park.

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