Laguna Seca has been one of North America's premier race tracks since 1957. Sixty-seven years later, the circuit is being sued by a group of Monterey County residents concerned about the noise and traffic that come when you live by a race track.
A group calling itself the Highway 68 Coalition claims that the track's increased use has exacerbated those problems. Group attorney Richard Rosenthal noted that the track is now used "340 days a year," leaving the circuit rarely quiet.
All of that additional activity has made the track a notable part of the regional economy. The track, which is operated by a third party but owned by the county, produced $246 million in economic impact during its major events in 2022. Last year, total attendance eclipsed 350,000 and the track was rented out 131 times. The track's annual Motorsports Reunion historic races are also part of a larger Monterey Car Week, an event that brought in $65 million in visitor spending when it was held in 2022.
In other words, Laguna Seca's growing popularity has been a major win for the region's place as a tourist destination. That same popularity has drawn the ire of the Highway 68 Coalition, which now aims to restrict the track from hosting more racing events and rentals than it did when its legal nonconforming use was established nearly 40 years ago.
The track is currently in the process of handing over operations to a new nonprofit operator, something that was supposed to be done on January 1. An attorney representing that group told the Monterey County Weekly that the lawsuit has played a part in the delay.
A spokesman for Monterey County told SFGate that "The County does not recognize any merit to the allegations and expects a favorable legal conclusion,” adding that the track's 2024 schedule should not be impacted. Laguna Seca is set to hold eight major events in 2023, including IMSA and IndyCar races in May and June.
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