IS RACEWAY IN FINAL LAP? MINING COMPANY THAT OWNS LAND NEEDS TO WORK IT.
PALMDALE -- With the future of the Los Angeles County Raceway in serious jeopardy, its supporters are mounting a last-ditch effort to save it from becoming a dig site for an adjacent mining operation.
The raceway, which sits on 235 acres in east Palmdale, is subleasing its land from Granite Construction, which has seen its business -- mining aggregate used to make concrete -- explode with the Antelope Valley's building boom.
Having Granite expand its operations to the drag-racing land has been a possibility for years, company officials said.
But that possibility could become reality in a matter of months, so raceway supporters are fighting back. They will hold the Rally in the Valley at 6 p.m. Friday at the raceway.
"Granite Construction says they're 'community-oriented,'" LACR General Manager Bernie Longjohn said. "Hopefully, that rock in the ground isn't more important than this community."
LACR proponents say saving the raceway is essential to maintaining proper conditions for area drag racers to compete in a safe and legal venue.
Granite officials say they've tried to accommodate the raceway's interests for years, but are obligated to mine aggregate the Antelope Valley needs to keep up with its explosive growth.
Rally organizer Steve Hillinger cited a May 20 incident on a Lancaster street in which two spectators were killed and three others seriously injured by a driver sheriff's deputies say was drunk as an example of the dangers participants and fans face attending illegal street-racing events.
He said such events will grow exponentially if the racetrack is closed.
"If we take away the track, there would absolutely be no place for the kids to go other than the streets," Hillinger said. "They'd have no alternative."
Raceway supporters want Granite to put a moratorium on its mining until a solution is reached. Although prospects of saving the raceway are bleak -- Granite officials say they could start mining the land where the track now sits later this year -- raceway supporters remain hopeful that the city can reach a deal with the company to purchase the land.
Longjohn said he needs a strip of land about 5,200 feet long and 60 feet wide to accommodate the raceway. The best options are keeping the track on its existing parcel or finding new land. Building on land already mined would expose the track to unacceptable dust levels, he said.
Granite Construction Area Manager Stephen Bridge said his company is working with Longjohn to find an alternative.
Bridge said company representatives met with Longjohn and Palmdale city officials Tuesday night in talks aimed at preserving or relocating the racetrack.
"We are definitely community-minded and we're sympathetic to the people who use the racetrack," Bridge said. "We're open-minded to working with the city or Bernie (Longjohn) to keep the racetrack open as long as possible."
Bridge said LACR officials have known for years that the company's mining interests would eventually encroach upon the raceway, he added.
And with the Antelope Valley's construction boom over the past decade, and more building on the way -- the 7,200-home Ritter Ranch and 5,000-home Anaverde housing developments and five schools are currently under construction, and a 150-acre Amargosa Creek Lancaster development is under consideration -- the time has come.
City Manager Steve Williams said the city will do what it can to save the raceway.
"We're very interested in supporting them in their effort to keep the racetrack open, but we need to know all available options before we can say what our involvement may or may not be," Williams said.
The Los Angeles County Raceway is threatened by Granite Construction, which plans to mine the land it sits on for concrete aggregate materials used for roadway and home construction. Raceway supporters will stage a Rally in the Valley in support of the facility they say is an important cultural landmark.
Jeff Goldwater/Staff Photographer
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||May 31, 2007|
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