Sunday, April 5, 2020     Volume: 21, Issue: 5

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on February 19th, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 51 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 20, Issue 51

Concerts, festivals at former Santa Maria Raceway stir controversy

By Kasey Bubnash

Nearly three months after a group of about 10 Nipomo residents voiced concerns about what they see as the nuisance and safety hazards caused by the non-racing events at Stadium805, nothing has changed. But neighbors aren’t giving up. 

When Erika Bylund and Mike May bought their $700,000 Nipomo home in May 2017, they knew a stock car raceway was nearby. But they didn’t know how much the then struggling track would change over the next two years.

Situated in the Costa Pacifica housing development just north of Santa Maria, the Bylund-May house sits less than a mile away from the Santa Maria Raceway. When May and Bylund were first considering buying the house, the raceway had long grappled with declining attendance, and May, a Santa Maria native, knew the hum of a few stock car races each year wouldn’t be a big deal. 

But in early 2018, the raceway was sold off to new owners who had a broader vision for all that the facility could be. It was renamed “Stadium805,” new lights and reserved VIP seats were installed, and in the spring of 2019, the raceway became a venue not just for races, but for concerts, beer and wine festivals, bull-riding contests, and a slew of other events. 

With the capacity to hold nearly 16,000 guests, Stadium805 markets itself as the largest event center on the Central Coast, but with all those events and attendees come hours of noise, traffic congestion, and trash, and Costa Pacifica residents like Bylund and May are fed up. 

“My wife can’t sleep at night,” May said at a South County Advisory Council meeting on Nov. 25, 2019, where he and other residents aired their grievances. 

Events run late, he said, the concerts are so loud the windows of his house shake, and increased traffic and parking make it difficult to navigate the only road leading in and out of the development. 

“It’s really concerning to me that I can’t get in and out of my home,” he said. 

Several other residents seconded those concerns and complained of their children not being able to sleep, drunk people in the streets, trash everywhere, and being totally unable to block the concert noise out with anything else. 

For Costa Pacifica resident James Kuenzinger, the biggest issue is safety.

The neighborhood is home to a number of older residents with health issues, and if the only road in and out is filled with traffic and used essentially as the stadium’s parking lot, it could be almost impossible for first responders and residents to access during an emergency. 

San Luis Obispo County staffers have been aware of controversy surrounding Stadium805 for months now, according to 4th District Supervisor Lynn Compton, who also attended the South County Advisory Council meeting in November 2019.  

Although the issue is still being investigated, Compton said it doesn’t seem like there’s much that can be done to appease the Costa Pacifica community members. 

While some community members suggested that Stadium805 is operating without the proper permitting, and others claim the license the venue has was approved in the ’60s, Compton said that Stadium805 has a perfectly legitimate entertainment license. 

The permit is old, though Compton couldn’t confirm just how old, and it doesn’t have an expiration date, but it allows for races, concerts, festivals, and all kinds of other events. Compton said the county can’t legally change the specificities of the license or force Stadium805 to get another one. 

The owners of Stadium805 could not be reached for comment before press time. But Compton said she’s been in contact with one of the owners regarding community concerns, and she said he seems willing to come up with solutions. Along with litter cleanup and the potential for a new parking lot, Compton said he plans to hire two California Highway Patrol officers—at the price of $2,000 an hour each—to direct traffic during all larger events. 

Still, Costa Pacifica residents said those things won’t subdue the noise, and they called on Compton to do more. The county is still looking into it, but Compton was frank.

“He, whether you like it or not, is operating under his permit,” she said. 

A group of Costa Pacifica residents met privately again at the beginning of February to discuss next steps. 

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