Sonoma Raceway seeks to hold non-racing events

Seeking to host a four-day rock festival as a way to refresh its operations and restore some lost revenue, Sonoma Raceway will seek permission to hold non-racing events at its Carneros wine region track.

The racetrack unveiled plans Monday to seek county approval for changes in its use permit that would redefine one of California's largest motor sports complexes as a "special events and entertainment" facility, said Steve Page, its longtime general manager.

"Our use permit reflects a snapshot of activity at the raceway nearly two decades ago," Page said. "The professional sports and entertainment industry has changed dramatically in that time and our business model needs to change with it."

The raceway is also looking for new sources of revenue. In 2012, it lost a contract that generated $4 million annually when Infineon Technologies declined to renew its 10-year naming rights deal.

"We're not losing money but the last few years have been challenging," Page said.

The move is not surprising, said David Rabbitt, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors.

"It's been what, close to 20 years since they received their use permit," said Rabbitt, whose 2nd District includes the raceway. "I understand and I think it's an opportunity for the county to try and see what can be accommodated at the raceway within reason for everyone involved."

The raceway, one of 11 tracks nationwide owned by North Carolina-based Speedway Motorsports, Inc., also proposes to:

-- Open a wine tasting room in a former administrative building at the entrance to the track complex;

-- Add lights to the go-kart racing track and extend its hours of operation until 10 p.m., up from 7 p.m.;

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