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Santa Maria Raceway to shut down

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Central Coast residents will soon lose a venue that has operated in Nipomo for decades. Santa Maria Raceway, home of Stadium805, is planning to cease operations, owner Nick Duggan announced in an Aug. 9 Facebook post.

FINAL LAP Santa Maria Raceway and Stadium805 owner Nick Duggan announced on Facebook that the venue will soon shut down due to financial unviability. - FILE PHOTO COURTESY OF SANTA MARIA RACEWAY
  • File Photo Courtesy Of Santa Maria Raceway
  • FINAL LAP Santa Maria Raceway and Stadium805 owner Nick Duggan announced on Facebook that the venue will soon shut down due to financial unviability.

The raceway has hosted stock car races for more than 40 years, and after a series of different owners, Duggan purchased it in 2018 hoping to make the venue more financially viable by adding concerts and other events. But after a challenging permitting process and a looming lawsuit from disgruntled neighbors, Duggan said the decision to close down the facility was a financial one.

"I think the final straw was when the county started fining us such huge amounts of money that we had to pay up front," Duggan told New Times. "We need that money to operate the business."

According to Duggan, he bought the raceway under the impression that he could use it to host concerts and other events.

"It was confirmed by [San Luis Obispo] County staff as well as our district supervisor that the Santa Maria Raceway use permit allowed many forms of entertainment, including concerts, color runs, festivals, and other non-racing events without the need to pull additional permits for each event," he said in the Aug. 9 Facebook post.

But soon after starting these types of events, Duggan began to receive noise complaints from residents of the nearby Costa Pacifica Estates. SLO County informed the venue that it would need to file for a 6.56 Entertainment License to put on live music events, Duggan said. He applied for the license and was granted it.

"However, the Costa Pacifica Homeowners Association then filed a lawsuit under the California Environmental Quality Act [CEQA] contending that the county had improperly granted us an exemption from conducting an Environmental Impact Report (EIR)," Duggan wrote.

SLO County 4th District Supervisor Lynn Compton said the 6.56 permit was a path forward for Stadium805 to do the events it hoped for and comply with county requirements, and she supported it. But when the lawsuit was filed, she said Duggan told the board he didn't want to go through with the license after all.

At the time, Duggan told New Times, he chose to back out of the permit because it was too hard to plan for events due to COVID-19 uncertainty. In his recent Facebook post, he wrote that "the license was rescinded" until COVID-19 conditions improved.

"We requested a reinstatement of the previously approved entertainment license to resume normal operations," Duggan wrote. "But the county is now saying we must start this expensive process all over again."

According to Compton, the license was only rescinded at Duggan's request. She said it was Duggan's choice to back out of it, and that's why the county would require him to apply for it again.

"He came to the Board [of Supervisors] and he said he did not want to move forward with it," she said. "We had to withdraw it based on him coming to us and saying he didn't want to do it. Then he decided to move forward, and he has to operate within the code."

William Parkin, legal representative for the Costa Pacifica Estates HOA, said in an emailed statement that it was not the intention of the HOA nor the county to close the speedway.

"However, the new owners of the speedway attempted to turn the facility into a concert venue which expanded a legal nonconforming use contrary to county regulations," Parkin wrote.

Parkin added that the lawsuit was settled out of court, and that part of the settlement required Duggan to have his permit rescinded.

From Duggan's perspective, he said he's now stuck between two bad options: Either cease operations and potentially violate the contracts he's already signed with upcoming event promoters or continue operations and keep getting fined. So, he's opting to shut down.

"We sincerely and unreservedly apologize to our community of devoted fans and racers," Duggan wrote in his Facebook post.

Hundreds of community members commented, offering their support. Assemblymember Jordan Cunningham told New Times in an emailed statement that he was saddened to see the venue go.

"As someone that has been going to the raceway since I was kid, I was very disappointed to hear this news," he said. "This serves as a reminder of the ongoing toll of this pandemic, and the need to give support to our local businesses that are still trying to recover." Δ

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