Revving Up

Seaside is confident it can handle a rowdy event that a Monterey police officer last year described as “the worst event I have ever worked.”

In May, Ramin Arami was facing an entrepreneur’s nightmare. He had a lineup of the world’s most stunning automobiles, bearing brand names like Pagani, Bugatti and Koenigsegg, ready to be displayed. He also knew he could count on tens of thousands of enthusiasts and spectators crowding the area for Car Week.

But with only about three months to go, Arami could find no venue to put the two elements together. The city of Monterey, which had hosted Exotics on Cannery Row for the past four years, called it quits after some drivers caused mayhem last year. Street racing in the Lighthouse Avenue Tunnel, for example, made it impossible for emergency vehicles to get through, says Monterey City Manager Hans Uslar.

Arami turned to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca as an alternate venue. But after Arami got some traction there, Monterey city officials requested that the track not accommodate the event.

Arami emailed Kurt Overmeyer, economic development director for the city of Seaside. He was hoping Overmeyer could intervene with Laguna Seca and not let “a few bad apples destroy an event loved by all.”

“I would like to sincerely ask for your help in taking a closer look at this matter,” Arami wrote. “As we are getting closer and closer to the event, we need immediate action.”

Fourteen minutes later, Overmeyer wrote back. He proposed that Seaside host the event instead and offered Broadway Avenue as a venue. “Exotics on Broadway has a nice ring to it,” he wrote. Arami agreed and so did all of Seaside City Council. Monterey’s loss will become Seaside’s gain.

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Perhaps no one is as excited about the event as Gloria Stearns, Overmeyer’s colleague at Seaside’s economic development office. As a child growing up in Wisconsin, her favorite pastime was joining her father to watch Indy Car time trials at the state fair. That experience turned her into a lifelong fan of high-performance cars. Three years ago, Stearns relocated from Milwaukee to Seaside and it was pure elation when the Exotics event suddenly fell into her lap.

She loved the idea of a major automobile event with free admission drawing crowds and potential customers to Seaside businesses.

“When I saw the email [from Arami], I went running over to Kurt and he high-fived me,” Stearns says.

She’s hopeful that the bad behavior won’t repeat itself at this year’s event and notes that the organizer will pay for the presence of eight Seaside police officers.

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Asaf Shalev is a staff writer at the Monterey County Weekly. He covers higher education, the military, the environment, public lands and the geographic areas of Seaside, Monterey, Sand City, Big Sur and Carmel Valley.

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