OVERVIEW: The rumormill around Southern California isn't quite on point these days at the Legendary Perris Raceway, the oldest track on the West Coast, is not closing but trading hands. The facility has a new lease on life and we sat down with the crew behind it to learn more about their plans and what they stand for.
Questions from our staff are listed in bold and names corresponding to who was speaking from this audio interview.
Michael Lindsay (Vital MX Content Director) - This is really the perfect scenario, at least for me, being a local native to Southern California and the motocross scene here, I'm getting to talk to three individuals about Perris raceway, the oldest track in California, the oldest track pretty much on the entire West coast of the country. There's maybe one or two tracks from the East coast that have existed longer, but pretty much if you're into moto, you've heard of the place. It's hold so many amazing events over the years and the ownership hand has changed, which for me being a local, I'm pretty excited about 'cause the facility has existed for a long time, but I'd like to really see it brought into the modern era, and that's what we're here to talk about, so I'll let the three men in front of me introduce themselves, give a quick brief background on who they are.
Scott Cooney (WTP/DSC) - Scott Cooney with WTP Motorsport and DSC Construction. I've been a native of Southern California my whole life, I'm born and raised in the Whittier/La Mirada area, been involved in the motorcycle industry pretty much my entire life. It's been a passion of mine, motorcycle racing and riding has actually made me who I am today.
Dino Demarco (WTP/Extreme Recycling) - Dino Demarco, owner of Extreme recycling, sponsored some of the race teams over the years...but one of the managing partners at WTP motorsports. I've been around motocross and racing my whole life. Old Saddle Back days, so the old school moto guy here, just love the sport.
Courtney Gannett (WTP Motosports) - Courtney Ganett with WTP (We the People) Motorsports. I will be the new facility manager for Perris Raceway. Construction background mainly, but obviously, riding dirt bikes my whole life, as with Scott and Dino. And yeah, this is gonna be an exciting new project that we'll be taken on and excited to get started on the first.
ML - Anybody's seen any social media, there may be a little bit of confusion of what's going on with Perris raceway. There's been talk that it's closing and I guess you technically could say it is closing as of current management will no longer be the ones operating it and your crew is taking over on February 1st. For a little background, I've met all three of you over the years at all the local tracks, you're all successful business owners in your own right, and in the case of Scott and Dino here, you both have also been involved in race teams for a long time, working with Teddy's The Privateer Journey program. So other than being weekend warriors yourself, enjoying racing, enjoying the local community, you guys also give back a ton of racing through WTP Motorsports, which I think you guys started that one about a year ago?
Dino Demarco - We the People Motorsports was formed June of 2021.
ML - That organization you guys started is basically to help better the moto community. Before we get into that though, I'll get back to whatI brought you guys here for with the facility itself, again, to dispel rumors, the facility is not going away, Perris will get to stand as the longest running track in California for a long time to come. You guys are taking over on February 1st, Can you guys explain basically, how did that come about? How did you guys get the opportunity? And why are you doing it?
Dino Demarco - So, WTP Motorsports was formed, we were three guys, the other manager partnered, Laura Borskey, Monarch Heavy Haul, one of the other sponsors of TPG, we had started talking and we were trying to get away from our personal business being branded on everything, so WTP was formed. and we were looking at some projects, and actually, we were working on a project different than Perris, another track, but it's an old iconic track with a lot to bring it back, and we were in the stages of speaking with politicians and other than that, and the opportunity came about fairly recently with Perris, and we jumped on it, and so you could say that one chapter is closing and another one's opening, so that's pretty much how it started, and Perris is not closing and it will be under new management.
ML - So starting on February 1st, you guys officially have the key to gate, per se. What do we see from February 1st on? What is the go-to plan for the first couple of weeks of the facility? And what should people expect that are locals to the area and want to come in?
Scott Cooney - So, basically, what's gonna happen February 1st is the folks at Dirt Prep, Hurbs and Jason have allowed us to use a state-of-the-art GPS system, so we're gonna do a survey, a topo of the property, and we're going to get grades and elevations, and we're gonna basically have a 2% fall over both tracks, the vet track and the main track. And we're gonna start off with a base before we build the tracks, so that when we have rain and we have heavy amounts of rain, everything sheet flows to one area, so we don't have standing water on the track. So that we'll be able to go in there, rip it, doze it, clean it up and go right to practice, we're not gonna shut down for three to four days at a time, it won't happen. We're gonna do a major overhaul of the main track and the vet track. And then what will happen first, we're gonna push the vet track into a huge pile, we're gonna survey that whole side of the property, we're gonna realign things so that we can get a Supercross track and a Vet track. Then we can have ability to have teams come in and practice with us and have another avenue for a privateers to ride Supercross. The main track is gonna get completely redesigned, we're gonna focus on that first, get the main track open, clean up the front booth of the property, put some new gates, get the entry gates squared away. The booth, we're gonna clean up the booth, so that we have an employee situation where it's a little cleaner for the employees to be in. There's gonna be a lot going on, we're not gonna get too crazy at first, this is a huge undertaking, and it's going to be a lot of work. We're gonna do some big improvements, main track first, and then we'll follow up by just cleaning up the facility. By 18 months into it, you won't recognize the place, that's how much change it's gonna have.
ML - Over the years people have come in with big plans, people that mean well have come into these tracks and it hasn't completely worked out. Like what Milestone at one point was supposed to become, what Pala was originally supposed to be. People would come in and make these giant promises, show this master plan of what the facility was gonna look like, and it didn't really ever get there. In your guys' case, it sounds like you guys got your short term, your longterm and much more in-play.
Scott Cooney - Yeah and you have to remember, I own a construction business, I move dirt for a living. Lauren (Monarch) moves heavy equipment, and Dino's (Extreme) has a legitimate recycling business that handles a lot of E-waste. We're not doing this because we're trying to make money by running a racetrack, we're doing this to change the sport, and to give back to the community. And like I said, it's not going to all happen overnight but there will always be progress moving forward with this facility. We wanna clean it up, it is the oldest track West of the Mississippi and it deserves to be represented the correct way. We're gonna bring back some of the Hot Summer Night series, you're gonna see some things from the late 80s, early 90s, all the way to the early 2000s that are gonna be implemented back into this facility. So we have a good team and our hearts are in the right place.
ML - So big one you mentioned was bringing back the Hot Summer Nights. That one to me, triggers a lot of memories because I'm about 30 years old. So I grew up doing that in the late 90s, the early 2000s, my first couple 50 races were there. I remember being there with a ton of kids that I still know today that we all grew up racing together. Back when I used to think of mini racing being popular, like four gates of freakin 50 class races. That family racing feeling.
Scott Cooney - Absolutely.
ML - Not that it hasn't become some horror place or anything but Perris...that's kinda missing to me from a lot of local motocross tracks, that family atmosphere, that community. Can you guys maybe touch on that?
Dino Demarco - Well, family, you just...hit the nail on the head, I'm the oldest out of all of them, 60 years old. So I've been around from the Saddleback days, Carlsbad, and all that, and that family vibe...just going into the track and being able to get up a close and personal feeling, the camaraderie. Moto for me is a family, it's always been that, and that's just a part that seems to be missing a bit these days. We're all moto people and you're at the track, you help each other, you share some parts and all that. You mentioned the minis and all that, we're gonna put in a Stacyc track, and we wanna have it where families come and they start with the Stacyc and even Striders, they move to the minis, and so on... Courtney has already scheduled some races, everything from the minis to the vet guys. We want to do things a little differently, and changing the sport is something we've talked about it for a long time. And now, it's time to put our money where our mouth is, change the sport and give back. Like Scott mentioned, we all have businesses, we're pretty successful at our business, so we're not depending on Perris to pay our bills and all that. We are going to run it as a business and the three of us are businessmen. But the vibe, the family vibe, we want that. We want the moms come out with their kids on mini nights, the dads, uncles, the grandmas, and grandpas...we want them to feel safe and provide a safe, well lit environment at night, during the day, weekends, whenever they come out there, it's safe. It's a great place, Perris is a great place to be.
ML - So talking a little bit about financials. I think most people are used to, in California at least, $30 track fees. Long time ago, they were 20 bucks, then it went about 25 average, now we're about that $30 range. I've seen a few people throw out some rumors that there was going to be a price hike or something. Let's talk about that. There's a lot of inflation going on right now but I think you guys told me it's still staying the same, right?
Dino Demarco - That's correct. We've mentioned that to a lot of people and we've heard the rumors too that it's going to 40 and blah, blah, blah. It's going to stay $30. We've budgeted the track and operations based off that 30 number. And when the time comes and diesel prices go to $10 a gallon or something crazy, then maybe it'll be $35 or something. But right now, it's not changing. If all the other tracks go up and we can hold at $30, we'll hold at $30.
Courtney Gannett - A lot of people are asking about the prior management's Fast Pass, so we need to address that also. Right off the bat, I don't think we're gonna have anything like thatright away, but we will come up with something once we get the facility open and see how things are doing.
ML - Some sort of member/unlimited riding pass?
Scott Cooney - Yeah, it's gonna be a process. It's a new venture, so we're gonna make mistakes. We're gonna have some hiccups in the beginning with our policies and procedures, just like any business, but the only good thing about our track is that it's going to be a business. It's not something that we're just doing half ass. It's gonna be a legit business, so...
Courtney Gannett - We will have to close for two to three weeks initially. Get things in place and then we can open. Then there will be more progress and more changes to the facility as we're open.
ML - So the main track's the first goal. It will be fully surveyed, re-done for drainage, which by the way, is awesome. I worked there when I was 16 years old, you do not know how many times we had endless lakes in the track! Good couple days of rain, it would never finish draining. Somebody go off over a corner? Oh, we gotta go get 'em with the skidsteer, they're in the lake thats been there for a freaking month, that won't go away.
Courtney Gannett - The main track is definitely first, get that up and running and then maybe we will get the gates open to ride that and start on the vet track while the main track's open. Let people get back into the facility while we progress on the rest.
ML - When the track does reopen, what do you think the schedule will be? Perris has had a very similar schedule over the years, the Mini Nights on Tuesdays, it's always been open on weekends, and the midweek schedule is a lot of night riding.
Courtney Gannett - Right now, it's gonna be the same tentatively with Tuesday night minis, nights on Wednesday and Thursday, day practice on Fridays and the weekends. Maybe depending on attendance, if there's enough call, we have the capability to do anything, so...as long as the demand is there, we'll open as much as we possibly can.
Scott Cooney - One of the other things that we've discussed with Kyle Lewis (trainer) is designating one day during the week for the group of trainers to bring kids out and work with them. We could facilitate five trainers at a time, we're thinking it may be like a Monday morning. Or maybe some time during the week, in the middle of the week, before the night riding, and let them have the facility for themselves just for training, so that we don't have any interference with the outside community. It's difficult having trainers and people doing classes during practice. As you know, kids coming on and off the track when you're coming over a jump...it's difficult.
ML - Safety definitely comes to mind because our tracks are so busy. You see split practices gone from California, you see trainers being able to run all over. You go to other states, that's not the case. Here, that lack of discipline or those rules aren't in effect. Where do you guys stand on practices, minis, big bikes, split practices, all that?
Scott Cooney - Yeah, that's why when we talked to Kyle, we said, "Hey man, we wanna designate a day where the track is actually yours and you guys do what you gotta do, you guys need your own time". We want to separate that and we want to offer something that no one else is offering. Training can happen when the training needs to happen. I don't want training going on while we have open practice. I just don't want anything to do with that. It's carnage.
ML - Speaking of safety...
Dino Demarco - So now that we've pretty much locked in, we have the signed executed lease, and some things that we couldn't talk about, we've been working with the Brett Downey Foundation. We met with them in the beginning when we did this and asked them if we were to do this, would they be aboard? We met with Jim Downey and we are bringing in safety full bore so not only will this be the oldest track, the family environment track, we intend to make this one of the safest tracks in the nation. We've been talking with some other tracks in other states, and they've helped us to be able to implement some things we're gonna do. But Brett Downey Foundation is going to be putting in lighting for us, so we're gonna have safety lighting, not only on race days, but during practice. We're gonna be monitoring that, so blind takeoffs, blind landings, entrances, exits, signage, so that we don't have that guy's going wrong way...kids getting landed on. Safety is a top priority. And lots of flagger training.
ML - Full-time paramedics?
Courtney Gannett - Full-time paramedics.
ML - Cool. Actually, talking about the lighting reminded me, Perris has always been super famous for night practice. Even back from when I worked there, I don't think anybody's rebuilt the lights or fixed half the blown out bulbs in at least ten years.
Scott Cooney - That's something that's gonna happen organically as we get in there and we start making headway in the right direction. We're gonna do photometrics, have a crew come out, we'll do a light survey and go from there. We are actually talking about doing LEDs or maybe some different type of Mussco stadium lights out there. There's a bunch of different things that we're gonna be working on. So yeah, that's just something you can stay tuned on, but we are definitely gonna change the lighting. And if we do have bulbs that are burned out, we'll replace those in the meanwhile.
ML - With WTP, you've all been involved in pro racing with teams and privateers, so I imagine events and races for these guys have gotta be somewhere on your schedule. Races, family events...what do you guys kind of have in mind for the facility in that regards?
Scott Cooney - Well, not only are we taking the racing over, but we have a really good relationship with Donna next door (Flat track/Speedway next to the property). She's the flat track, the speedway so Perris is gonna have some pretty cool event with what we're bringing to the table with the space we have access to. When we do a best whip contest, a local race, a Supercoss invitational it's going to happen at Perris and we're going to be in control of everything. We'll be in control of the venue, the parking, the concession, ticket sales, security. The biggest problem with what we've had over the last year with events we've done is that we're not in control of the whole thing. In order to do it right, you have to have control of the ticket sales, the vendors, the facility, the concessions, the event itself, the layout, everything needs to be in your control. So Perris race is gonna allow us to be in control of everything and put on some great events.
ML - Outside of the Hot Summer Nights coming back, what's the other races planned...
Dino Demarco - Supercross invitational
ML - That's it, the old Supercross Invitational
Scott Cooney - Yes, the winter warmup!
ML - Yeah. I remember watching McGrath and a couple of guys race back in the day, the Goat Brecker days...
Dino Demarco - Well, I think Scott can tell you too is we have something pretty special for the pro guys. So I'll let Scott tell you what we've decided to do with pro guys and entry fees, and so forth.
Scott Cooney - One of the things that we will do is when we do a race, if you're an AMA licensed pro and you're currently racing motocross or Supercross, they're not going to pay to come and race with us. There is going to be serious pro payouts and they're not going to $65 payback, they're going to be thousands of dollars. Let these guys come and make money like they should. These guys are professionals and these guys work their asses off and they need to be compensated for the job that they're doing. It's one of the only sports that I know where you gotta pay to participate at the professional level. Even if it's the best privateers in the country, let them come through the gate. I'm not gonna charge them to race as they're putting on a show and it's gonna draw the people in there. We'll make the money on the gate. We're not going to just take money from the guys that are trying to make a living racing motocross. This is a great sport. That's the problem with the sport. Kids get fast on dirt bikes and they start racing, they get accolades for being good at something. There's a lot of kids that have been in this sport that weren't good students but they were great motorcycle riders. And they ended up morphing into getting sponsored and racing motocross, and then they've thrown themselves into this thing where they become great at it and they don't have an avenue to make it financially make sense. All they do is work, work, work, to pay to go race motorcycles. That's weird to me, it's just not right. The NBA doesn't have their participants paying to put on an event and go out in the public and do things.
ML - What are some of the items you guys plan on doing around the facility? I know you guys touched on the Stacyc thing. I think that'd be really cool to expand on, 'cause I know it's not just like "Oh, there's gonna be a little pump track". Like, you guys actually have a pretty cool plan for that and just the overall facility where it's amenities, fencing, etc, etc.
Courtney Ganett - Interior fencing, bleachers, and interior lighting for the Stacyc track. We're planning to have a bleacher set up around it, fenced in to keep kids in, small kids. And yes, light it. So you could have night racing for the Stacycs, also.
Scott Cooney - The interior solid concrete surface around the perimeter, turf. There would be a turf area where the younger kids that can't ride their mom can put them in a little play area. So that it'll be adjacent to this stacyc track so that mom can keep an eye on the little one, as well as watching bathrooms, clean bathrooms...
Courtney Gannett - Yeah. I know it does sounds weird, but nice clean bathrooms.
Dino Demarco - Female specific bathrooms, too.
Scott Cooney - Got to make it nice for moms. There'll probably be a coffee truck there too. We're not going to have a kitchen or anything like that. We're gonna work with trucks, food trucks. We're gonna have platforms for them to pull up on water, power and they'll have a concrete pad. We'll just negotiate with whoever wants to participate, but they'll always be a food truck at the facility.
Courtney Gannett - And a PA system.
ML - Oh, working PA system? No way!
Courtney Gannett - Yup, working PA system.
ML - I haven't heard a working PA system there in like a long time. (chuckles)
Courtney Gannett - So you can actually hear when your race is going off and get some information during race day for sure.
ML - What about parts supply? Any sort of little shop for tubes, tires, etc? You know, the usuals we all forget...
Scott Cooney - Yeah. That's gonna happen. I really can't talk too much about that at this point in time, but there's a plan in place and we're talking with a few people about that. That'll be something that will come out here probably in the next month, around the time we open.
ML - How can people continue to learn about the facility? What's going to be the website, the social contacts, everything. So people know what's going on?
Dino Demarco - So we don't want to really release that right at this moment. We have a new Instagram page, we have a new webpage, we have a name for it. I don't wanna say it, 'cause people will go to it and it's not completed yet. So we don't want people going to it. For now, check our WTP Instagram, and we'll be posting the new track website and social shortly. And we've also put together a social media team. We'll have them out on practice days and race days, filming, talking to public. Not just the Ken Roczens and Eli Tomacs, but the locals, the family that drove from Arizona to check out the legendary Perris Raceway. Talk to these people, the parents, the vet guys, why are you here, what are your suggestions?
ML - Anything else we didn't cover?
Dino Demarco - We wanted to talk about there some policy changes. There'll be no pit bike riding in the pits, as insurance has gone through the roof and we've found that to get good viable insurance that covers us and the people that support our track...there's somethings we'll have to be strict on. Keep pit riding kids from running into trucks, pets and dogs not on leashes too. We're gonna enforce some rules and we know we're gonna get some pushback. We know we're gonna get some pushback, but it's better than having to airlift some kid out with life threatening injuries or being paralyzed from something that didn't need to bee happening. The track...the sport is as gnarly as any sport in the world. So with that, we just want to eliminate the things that we can prevent. So riding in the pits on pit bike, zipping through cars and other guys running into a kid, that's what shut down the iconic Saddleback. It wasn't because of where it was. It wasn't because environmental; two guys, pit riding, ran into each other and it turned into a massive lawsuit. So we want to avoid that.