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RaceLegal hoping to restart street racing at SDCCU Stadium

Non-profit had shut down in March
Posted at 8:07 AM, Apr 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-17 11:07:33-04

SAN DIEGO, Calif. (KGTV) - Street racing could return to SDCCU Stadium, after just a couple month's hiatus.

RaceLegal, a non-profit that has run drag races in the stadium parking lot for 21 years, says they have new leadership and new funding. They hope to resume racing soon.

But, organizers say they're having trouble getting permission from the City of San Diego to use the venue.

"This is really important for the community," says Lydia Denecochea, RaceLegal's Executive Director. "It saves lives."

RaceLegal started in the late 1990s as a response to a rash of street racing crashes and deaths. Denecochea says giving people a safe, controlled environment to race has made the roads safer across the city.

"It's a human characteristic that we are competitive, and many of us love speed. It'll never go away," she says.

The non-profit group joined forces with city leaders, the San Diego Police Department and the San Diego Sheriff to give drivers an alternative. People could even volunteer at events to satisfy community service requirements from traffic tickets.

The number of deaths from street racing fell from 16 in 2000 to just two in 2018. Injuries also saw a drastic drop-off in the same time frame, from 39 to only one.

"It works," says Denecochea. "In 2000, we had carnage on our roads."

But a lack of funding led the non-profit to close in early 2019. A message on their websitetold supporters that the budget deficit, "renders the program not viable to continue service to our community."

RELATED: RaceLegal stops drag races after more than two decades in Mission Valley

They held what many thought would be their final race on March 1.

Since then, interest from a private investor has Denecochea looking into holding more races. She's now asking supporters to send a letter to the Mayor's office and to other city leaders urging them to let RaceLegal use SDCCU Stadium again.

A spokesperson from the city told 10News they're looking into the issue. In a statement, they said, "The City is in communication with RaceLegal on the potential resumption of legal racing at the stadium. However, concurrently the City is in discussions with other race producers to ensure that legal racing at the stadium continues to provide a safe option for the San Diego community."

Councilmember Scott Sherman's office says they've also been in touch with RaceLegal and with the stadium to resolve the issue.

One potential roadblock is the pending sale of SDCCU Stadium and the land around it to San Diego State University. In November, voters passed Measure G, which authorized the deal to create an SDSU West campus and build a new stadium for the Aztec football program.

Denecochea says she wants the city to let RaceLegal keep racing until construction starts. She thinks they can use that time to find a new venue.

"It's worth it to save 16 lives a year," she says.