Airport given green flag as race track closes

If you live in Southern California and are a fan of motor racing, you’ve probably been to the Cajon Speedway near Gillespie Field (SEE) in San Diego. Soon the land that held the race track will be replaced by hangars and tie-down spots.

The 70 acres, owned by San Diego County, has always been part of the airport, according to Peter Drinkwater, director of San Diego County airports.

The airport was built during World War II as part of Camp Gillespie. In 1946 San Diego County leased the airport and converted it to public use. In 1952 the federal government granted the county ownership. The county then leased the property to the Brucker Family, which built the race track in 1957. The Saturday night races, first with motorcycles and then with cars, became part of the local culture as post-war America fell in love with motor sports. The track’s last race was in October 2004. This August, the Brucker family’s lease expired.

In addition to the track, the property has had many subleases over the years, including a golf driving range and a storage facility for the waste management department of the City of San Diego.

“Those uses have always been considered interim uses, including the race track,” Drinkwater explained. “It was understood that the land would eventually revert back to aviation use.”

Because of its proximity to the airport, the property is a prime piece of real estate. Drinkwater noted that even before the county issued Requests for Proposals for development of the land, officials were getting calls from interested parties.

“We must have heard from about 70 developers,” he noted. “We plan to have aviation-related businesses like maintenance facilities, T-hangars and box hangars. There will also be tie-down space and ramp parking.”

Ideally, the development will create space for up to 384 aircraft.

The last time the county looked at alternative uses for the land was in 1987 when the airport master plan was updated. At that time it was proposed that half the 70 acres be converted for industrial uses that were not necessarily aviation related.

“The FAA didn”t like that,” Drinkwater recalled. “They told us they wanted any future development to be aviation related and threatened us with a violation of grant assurances if we didn”t return the land to aviation use when the lease retired.”

County officials note the track will be demolished by Spring 2006.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *