SCORE International race to come to Imperial Valley
An international off-road race series predicted to bring tens of thousands of people and millions of dollars in revenue to the Valley is coming to the west Imperial County desert in April 2014.
A SCORE International race, which has not been hosted in California for 20 years, could be the biggest event to ever come to the Imperial Valley, largely due to the potential economic impact to local businesses, according to members of an El Centro Chamber of Commerce committee tasked with organizing the race.
“It’s a premiere race. It’s like the NASCAR of racing locally, but here in the desert,” said Jeff Sturdevant, a member of the El Centro chamber’s Imperial Valley SCORE Committee.
“It doesn’t get any bigger,” he said.
SCORE International is a race series most known for its Mexico-based events like the Baja 1000, Baja 500 and San Felipe 250.
“In the scheme of things, it’s very positive for restaurants, hotels and businesses,” Imperial County Board of Supervisors Chairman Ray Castillo said.
April is a good time for this to happen because the extra money will help local businesses get through the slower summer months. El Centro City Councilman Jason Jackson said the race is going to generate income and revenue for all of the surrounding cities.
Sales tax revenues will go up because of the excessive spending at gas stations, hotels, restaurants and stores, Jackson said. Most city budgets are driven by the sales tax that goes into the general fund, which can then go into city projects.
“The business community has no idea what the economical benefits will be,” said Marty Coyne, an Imperial Valley SCORE Committee member. The committee was formed to work on logistics, permitting and organization as well as do fundraisers for the SCORE International Imperial Valley 250 race.
The reported economic impact from SCORE host cities in 2012 was massive, committee members said.
Primm, Nev., earned $5.6 million over a period of about four days while Laughlin, Nev., earned $10 million. Mexico’s combined economic impact from three races was $45.6 million, according to documents provided by the committee.
Brandon Adams, a committee member, said it is estimated the race will benefit the Imperial Valley in the range of $8 million to $10 million.
An average of 300 racers, 4,000 support personnel, 1,200 support vehicles and 10,000 fans are expected to come, he said.
Adams added the committee anticipates every hotel and motel in the Imperial Valley will be filled.
“We probably don’t have enough rooms, but we’ll figure it out,” he said. Part of the benefits of an open desert, he added, is the fact that people can bring their campers.
SCORE has also agreed to market the Imperial Valley on its website, which will receive national and international attention. The event will be broadcast to a wide audience, committee officials said, where interviews will be run with local officials who will have the opportunity to talk about the Imperial Valley.
News agencies and others are also expected to cover the race from their helicopters. Coyne said he is planning to meet with the Naval Air Facility El Centro to ensure they don’t encroach on each other.
The goal, Coyne said, is to not interfere with the base’s flight patterns and to stay out of the Navy’s restricted area. The Navy also does not fly on the weekends, but in the case of an emergency both parties would have constant communication with each other via radio frequency.
Imperial County is the ideal location for sponsors and spectators because it is a two-hour drive from major counties like San Diego, San Bernardino, Riverside and Los Angeles, Coyne said.
Because of the amount of fans expected, safety is going to be emphasized. Spectators will be encouraged to stay in designated viewing spots during the racing event.
“If we have an issue, it’s going to be a safety issue,” Adams said.
The SCORE International Imperial Valley 250 does have the potential to return to the Imperial Valley, but only if everything goes well in April, committee members said.
Jackson said if it becomes an annual event, it will bring additional revenue that the Imperial Valley can rely upon every year.
Adams emphasized that the event could not take place without the cooperation of the El Centro Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the Imperial County Sheriff’s Office and the city of El Centro and other surrounding cities.
The race will feature about 300 racers in 40 pro and eight sportsman classes. This includes motorcycles, trophy trucks, ATVs, buggies and more. All drivers will race through three laps of versatile terrain consisting of about 80 miles of a mixture of open desert, rocks, washes and dunes.
“That’s the cool thing about our desert,” Sturdevant said. “It’s very versatile and challenging.”
The course is almost entirely on public land located at Superstition Mountain near the Ocotillo area. The start and finish will be on Coyne’s private land where there will be a special course infield, meaning a race course within a race course.
This is for the benefit of the viewers, Coyne said. The viewers will have a better opportunity to actually see the racers in action before they take off on those 80 miles.
Although the race itself is the main show, fans and racers will be around between April 24-27 for a qualifying race, contingency and inspection and an awards banquet.
The Chamber of Commerce has entered into an agreement with SCORE in order for the Imperial Valley to host the event, Sturdevant said.
The SCORE International Imperial Valley 250 is one of six races in the SCORE International championship series.