Death to the American Dream! (The mall, not the ethos)
By Anthony “Mario” Crea
Obscene amounts of money that could have been used to help house the homeless, ease overcrowded schools, preserve and protect open space, address derelict and crumbling infrastructure projects, or any number of truly necessary projects instead went to build something nobody asked for… Another mall in Joisey.
Sadly, ladies and gentlemen, it has happened… After almost 17 years of gestation due to mismanagement and general stupidity (read: typical NJ stuff) the American Dream Mall had a soft opening on October 25, 2019.
If you are reading this blog post, you have probably attended an NNJR-SCCA autocross event at MetLife Stadium at some point since our first event there at the beginning of the 2011 season. If so, you know that “shit got real” this year because of the mall and the anticipated chaos that was to ensue. As you may have heard over the years, stadium management traditionally offers us dates in two main chunks: 1.) Potential dates leading up to the NJ State Fair in June, and 2.) Potential dates after the NJ State Fair in June.
June came and went.
So did July.
Disappointingly, there weren’t a plethora of dates added to the calendar in September and October. This led to a mild panic setting in among regular participants. Indeed, speculation began to occupy the paddocks and grids of events throughout the Northeast Division. Then, on August 7th, Perry made an announcement on the Official Northern New Jersey SCCA Autocross Group Facebook page indicating that dates going forward were going to be light as stadium management resealed and repainted Lot E and, therefore, didn’t want anyone using it; they also wanted to be prepared to deal with the (projected) hordes of people clamoring to visit the mall.
Despite an online poll Perry established showing a nearly 50/50 split between people’s willingness to run on Fridays (or not), two such events were optimistically put on the calendar for early October. Disappointingly, less than 30 people signed up for both, and they were scrapped. Much to everyone’s relief, the November 3rd event took place on a beautiful Sunday with over 110 entrants giving the American Dream the good ol’ “Jersey Salute” during the Driver’s Meeting.
There’s a good chance Lot E is dead forever, and we all need to accept this.
Chalk it up to the premise of “First World Problems”, but using Lot E almost exclusively for nine years spoiled us all, plain and simple… Sorry, it had to be said. Yes, every event was essentially a National Tour, complete with the quality course design and event management to match. Paddock was regularly filled with people who willingly drove upwards of four hours to run on Lot E; people rarely drove that far back when we ran at Raceway Park (that’s a story for another day), and now it’s probably gone. We became victims of the old adage, “Nothing lasts forever”.
Given our proximity to New York, we realize that money talks and bullshit walks in our society. Yet, there’s also a realistic limit to what any organization could charge someone to drive around cones in a parking lot for, get this, a whopping six minutes per event! Given what MetLife charges, coupled with the SCCA’s own special blend of fees, and some NNJR autocross events have gotten dangerously close to costing what a Track Night in America event would (once coupons were applied). Not much more money from there gets you into a bonafide track day, complete with tons of seat time (albeit it at a greater risk of harm to both man and machine). Instead, just 300 cars paying $20 to park will generate more revenue that what we currently pay to rent a lot. Those same 300 cars paying $30 to park would generate sizably more revenue than the NNJR can ask of entrants, and in the numbers game, we lose.
As of mid-November, Lots J and L should remain available to rent for 2020. There will be no NJ Pro, nor any national event at the stadium in 2020.
This isn’t a bad thing because most of us have run in both these lots with either the SCCA or MSNE. I’ve personally run on them with more frequency the last couple of seasons, and I paid careful attention to how diverse course layouts could be. I’m pleased to report that with careful planning, very exciting, fast, challenging, and (most importantly) safe courses can be created on these lots, especially when one considers that there is no shortage of talented course designers in the area who could make it work on any given weekend.
Remember, no one knows what the future holds. Perhaps we’ll arrive on site one day and see this (courtesy of Matthew Peterson)…
Our problems would indeed be over.