Ugh. Southern California has eleventy billion places to go shopping, and only one race track left in Los Angeles County, according to Speedhunters' loving tribute to Formula D's races there. Can't you put your oversized exercise room for old people somewhere else?
I don't even live in SoCal, and I think this is horrible news. One of the biggest complaints I hear on any article where I point out that street racing is beyond idiotic (which it is) is about the lack of legal venues to get your speed on. With the closest track to downtown LA being thirty-five miles away, bulldozing Irwindale for a meh outlet mall is about the dumbest idea I can think of.
Irwindale's schedule is great. There's street-legal drag strip test and tune nights, which are great, cheap opportunities to push your car to its straight-line speed limits without getting busted for it. NASCAR's K&N Pro Series West and Whelen All-American Series run on the oval, giving fans an opportunity to see up-and-coming talent before those drivers make the big time. There's the Night of Destruction, featuring many, many delightful ways of destroying a car. NHRA drags. Formula Drift. Skid plate racing. There's even a sweet Volkswagen drag day.
Like the similarly doomed Texas World Speedway, just about every weekend seems to be booked. Why? Because it fills a needed hole in the community. Here in Texas, a developer wants to make another amateur-friendly and accessible venue to replace TWS, but is running up against every roadblock imaginable from permits to site issues to baseless protests from locals who don't realize that their neighbors' leaf blowers make more noise than a race track just outside town.
And that's in Texas. We've got more land and wide-open space between Houston and Austin than we know what to do with. The Los Angeles area, on the other hand, doesn't seem like a place where a replacement for Irwindale is all that feasible to build. Land costs are high and large spaces with kind neighbors are in short supply.
According to the Pasadena Star-News, Irwindale Outlet Partners, LLC, purchased the property in September 2013 for $22 million. They've been leasing the property on a year-by-year basis to 211 Enterprises, who operates the Irwindale Event Center, the entity that manages the daily operations of the track itself.
Irwindale Outlet Partners, like all soulless developers who don't get car people, probably sees the land as a cheap, large lot to build a more lucrative project on on, and that sucks.
Pasadena will likely approve the developers' plans to demolish the track on Wednesday, which is a shame. Irwindale as a race track serves that community far better than another shopping mall would. Communities need racing venues that are accessible, open and cheap. That's how you keep enthusiasts from doing dumb stuff on public roads: by making it easy to have fun with a car the legal way. One man's "that's only 35 miles further" is another's extra half-hour (or more) of drive time just to get there, if they're lucky and don't hit traffic.
Irwindale has only been Irwindale since 1999, but it clearly fills a hole for racing enthusiasts in LA.
Per the Pasadena Star-News, Irwindale Event Center's existing lease will continue until 65% of the tenant space is leased. Construction could start as early as 2016, depending on when those leases fill up.
And again: that sucks.
LA doesn't have a shortage of places to go shopping. More and more people looking for deals are skipping the mall entirely and shopping online, anyway. Building a mall today seems to make about as much sense as building an 8-track shop.
You know what that area's starting to have a shortage of? Close-in places to go racing.
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