Something sizable is missing at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. And track general manager John Narigi is pleased.
“That’s probably the biggest win,” he says as backhoes and other construction equipment preside over a gap where a bridge supporting the main walkway into the paddock area stood until recently. “Laguna Seca is coming back alive.”
Granted, the announcement of a new pedestrian bridge had been made two years before Narigi’s A&D Narigi Consulting was granted operational oversight of the county property in 2019. And it had been originally hoped that a new overpass, as well as a complete repaving of the track itself, would be completed by the end of November.
When the construction firm Granite completed removal of the old structure earlier this fall, however, it marked the first step in a county-approved, $14.9 million renovation package of the track.
Both projects are long overdue. The asphalt surface of the track was last repaved 15 years ago. The bridge, which 75 percent of attendees at any given event must use, dates back to the late 1970s.
“It would not have been permitted for the ’23 season,” Narigi says. He says a modern span was a requirement for the return of Rennsport – a global Porsche event – to Laguna Seca, and that some sponsors had raised safety concerns. “You need a bridge that can handle traffic.”
The walkway over the main straight will be the most visible change, once completed. In addition, the race starter box that had been tucked under the old overpass will be moved to a more visible location.
Narigi is seeking sponsorship for the bridge that will contribute more than $1 million toward the project.
Over the summer, it was announced that the track would shut down in November for the completion of both projects by Granite, the winning bidder. But weather and other issues delayed both, with the track resurfacing schedule now more uncertain.
Asphalt used for racing surfaces is finicky, requiring a narrow temperature window both for laying out and curing, which can take up to six weeks to ensure a 10-year life span.
Narigi says the current goal is to complete resurfacing before the start of the 2023 race schedule, which opens May 5-7 with the Trans Am Speedfest, followed immediately by IMSA’s Motul Course de Monterey May 12-14.
“That is questionable, only because of climate,” he says.
Should weather further interrupt the schedule, the track would shut down for resurfacing after the IMSA race. There is an almost two-month window before the MotoAmerica Superbike series visits in July. The only other firm event scheduled is a music festival in June that would not involve the track surface.
The six major events at Laguna Seca in 2022 generated $8.7 million in transient occupancy tax revenue, $4.3 million in county taxes and almost $247 million in local spending by attendees and participants, according to an analysis by the College of Business at CSU Monterey Bay.
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