Salinas, CA — The Sportscar Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula (SCRAMP), which manages the Laguna Seca Recreation Area for the County of Monterey, has restructured Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca’s senior management. Longtime GM and CEO Gill Campbell has been appointed senior VP of event operations, while SCRAMP board of governors president Michael Smith has temporarily assumed CEO duties while a search for a permanent CEO with motorsports facility management and operations is conducted.
The SCRAMP announcement came Monday, the day before public comments before the County board of supervisors by local hospitality industry reps, SCRAMP and Friends of Laguna Seca (FOLS), a non-profit comprised of well-heeled Monterey Peninsula businessmen — many of them vintage car racers, collectors and restorers — which had been in the running to assume the management concession for Laguna Seca until the supervisors awarded the contract to SCRAMP in a new, revocable (on 90-day notice) three-year deal to manage the entire facility, beginning in January.
FOLS member Gordon McCall, producer of two events during Monterey Classic Car Week every August, including the prestigious The Quail Motorsports Gathering and a huge soirée at the Monterey Jet Center, told VM that two weeks ago, some six months into the new agreement, the county asked the Friends group to again present their offer to assume a 25-year lease on the facility with a $50 million commitment to improve the track and surroundings. FOLS assured supervisors they had $10 million in pledges at hand from its members.
McCall said FOLS told the supervisors that “We would like to maintain SCRAMP (as a partner) and bring in the things that they are lacking — like leadership and resources.” FOLS’ proposal had included hiring respected track management pro Lauri Eberhart (formerly a top exec at Charlotte Motor Speedway) to oversee Laguna Seca. But hospitality reps publicly called for the County to continue the current SCRAMP agreement, and SCRAMP officials had voiced no willingness to work with FOLS in managing the recreation area.
Following the Tuesday FOLS review, the supervisors met in a closed-door session and rejected Friends’ proposal, deciding to maintain the current management agreement with SCRAMP. According to a Monterey Herald report, board chairwoman Supervisor Mary Adams said FOLS indicated it wanted a signed agreement with the county in place by the Aug. 14 beginning of Classic Car Week and its signature Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, the largest vintage race in the U.S. with 550 entrants. Adams told the Herald it was a major concern a switch to new management could hinder this year’s and 2018’s racing seasons. Adams was quoted, “This was a very laborious, time-consuming process to reach the same conclusion we reached earlier this year. I think we’ll stay on the same path, at least for the time being.”
In a statement, FOLS board president Ross Merrill said, “While we disagree with the decision of the (supervisors), we respect their process for deciding the future of Laguna Seca Recreation Area. Our vision and new business plan for the LSRA was to work collaboratively and cooperatively with SCRAMP, the County, and the community to restore Laguna Seca to its former glory. We were willing to make a contractual commitment to the County to raise and spend $50 million on reinventing this important community asset during the next 25 years. We wish SCRAMP and the County the best on the execution of their plan.”
It’s unknown at this time if FOLS will make another pass at managing Laguna Seca on expiration of the SCRAMP deal in 2019.