Motorsports fans of Santa Barbara County, start your fundraising engines. The race to build a drag strip, motocross course, and go-cart track is underway in the City of Lompoc, and based on the broad support the idea has received so far — including a recent unanimous vote from the City Council encouraging proponents to work with staff on a deal for land next to the municipal airport — the only hurdle standing in the way appears to be the money needed to pay for environmental review and construction.
“We’re building a nonprofit, self-sustaining facility so that people who want to participate in motorsports have a place locally to do so,” said Carl Creel, chairman of the Lompoc Valley Motorsports Committee. The hope, said Creel, is that the drag strip will keep people from dangerously racing on public roads, the motorcross course will give a legal option for dirt bikers who can no longer race in the bed of the Santa Ynez River, and the go-cart track will just be a fun place for all ages. Plus, given that Creel is already attracting interest from gearheads and hot rod clubs around the state, the complex is expected to boost the city’s economy, bumping up hotel stays, restaurant bills, gas station visits, and even sales for auto parts stores. Said Creel, “It’s a win-win for our community and for the Central Coast.”
The idea was first proposed by John Linn — who also started the Lompoc Parks, Recreation, and Pool Foundation, which is the nonprofit umbrella for the Motorsports Committee — but Creel took over when Linn was elected mayor of Lompoc in 2010. To gauge community interest, Creel and his team collected 5,000 signatures with surprising speed, and they have since been working hard at figuring out how to put together a public-private partnership to pull it off. The proposed site next to the airport and overlooking the Santa Ynez River has been cleared of brush and altered slightly over the years, but remains mostly vacant, save for the skydivers who make their landings on an open field there.
“We’ve tried to be as professional as possible,” said Creel, who’s hired a planning consultant, hosted swap meets and car shows as fundraisers, and managed to raise about $30,000 so far, including donations from the Chumash tribe and in-kind support from contractors, towing companies, and restaurants. “We are working pretty hard at fundraising.”
The City Council’s 5-0 vote in June allowed the committee to work directly with city staff on developing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) as to how the partnership and land deal would work. “The council was supportive,” said city planner Lucille Breese, who expects the MOU to be completed and voted on this coming February. “This type of activity is something that members of the community would like to see. Obviously the city is not in an economic position to do this, but if the group at the foundation can get it moving forward, certainly the city would support it.”
As of yet, no one is publicly against the idea, but Breese also explained that there haven’t been any real public forums for voicing such concerns yet. As well, the project will likely need to produce a full environmental impact report (EIR), which Breese confirmed can be a “pricey component” of the process. “It’s our anticipation that, because of the location, we would need to have an EIR prepared,” said Breese, explaining that such reports are required by state law when building in potentially sensitive areas, like next to a river. “If the city were to do something there, we would have to go through the same steps.”
In the meantime, Creel is focused on raising the money and momentum required to get make this idea a reality. “If this facility is built, it’s going to become a draw automatically,” said Creel, explaining that it will also become a central location for swap meets, car shows, and even concerts. “I’d like to think we can break ground in no more than a year.”
See racelompoc.com for more information.