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Swap Meet director says it was time for grandstands to go

Posted: November 14, 2012 7:06 p.m.
Updated: November 14, 2012 7:06 p.m.

Worker Abel Rodriguez uses a chain saw as he works to remove the last section of the Saugus Speedway grandstands on Soledad Canyon Road.

The old Saugus Speedway grandstands came tumbling down this week not out of disrespect for history, but out of respect for safety.

So said Doug Bonelli, managing director of the Saugus Swap Meet, held on the grounds of the Santa Clarita Valley’s former stock car race track.

“That stuff is old,” Bonelli said in an interview this week. “Every time I walk under there I hope something doesn’t fall on my head.”

The speedway, a mecca in its day for stock car racing, fell quiet in 1995 when organizers halted racing there, declaring the grandstands unsafe.

Since then, the wooden structures have fallen into disrepair and, in Bonelli’s mind, become a safety concern. The city issued a permit to completely remove the wooden grandstands at the speedway in May.

Bonelli said the remaining work will remove the last 25 percent of the still-standing grandstands.

As of yet, Bonelli said he does not have any definitive plans on what to do with the space formerly occupied by the grandstands.

He said he understands the decision to dismantle the grandstands was a controversial one, and he remembers attending races there himself.

“But, eventually, the maintenance outran the revenue,” Bonelli said.

Duane Harte, the treasurer of the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society, said he has fond memories of the speedway stretching back more than 30 years.

“That property has been a part of our Santa Clarita history for decades,” Harte said. “Whether it was used as a rodeo arena or a racetrack, it’s still been part of our community.”

Harte said there have not been any discussions between the Historical Society and the speedway’s property owners about any special historic designation at the site as of yet.

Bonelli said he plans to set aside a time when members of the public can come by the property and pick up a piece of the grandstands as a souvenir. That time will likely be early next year, Bonelli said.




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