Laguna Seca renaissance, Part 4: Perseverance

The venerable Laguna Seca Raceway Foundation exists to raise funds for the development of the Laguna Seca Recreational Area and is a separate entity from both the track operator and Monterey County. A 501c3 corporation, the LSRF has been rejuvenated of late with key additions to its board of directors — men who collectively possess a clear vision for WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca’s future with the energy and wherewithal to help secure it. Over the last few weeks, RACER has been endeavoring to share the behind-the-scenes of the Foundation’s part in this world-class raceway’s renaissance.

A standout collective strength of the Laguna Seca Raceway Foundation board is that its current directors are doers, most of them entrepreneurs from a wide range of industries.

One of those men with perhaps the clearest perspective on the racetrack’s past, present and future is its treasurer, Steve Fields. As an outside contractor to first SCRAMP and now Monterey County, Fields secured first Mazda, then WeatherTech’s naming rights to the track; and both initiated and now keeps front and center strong relationships with Rolex, Lexus, and a majority of the top-tier relationships currently in place.

Although he surely is now, the Northern California native didn’t start out as a “motorsports guy.”

“No, I’m a baseball guy at heart,” he explained. “That’s my passion — baseball first and foremost. I played until I couldn’t anymore; baseball was always my first love.”

His first love led him to a 10-year-long, first-job-out-of-college gig with the MLB San Francisco Giants’ minor league organization — “By far the most educational decade I could have ever hoped for,” he said. “Essentially I learned how to run a sports and entertainment organization, everything from taking tickets to paying security to making bank deposits to selling corporate sponsorships; promotions, merchandising and everything in between.”

Next up, an account manager position with MGO Marketing, Yahoo Sports’ first-ever brand agency.

“Our real forte was opening new minor league baseball stadiums,” Fields remembered. His own list of responsibilities included finding corporate funding — “the top 10 sponsors, the naming rights and that kind of stuff.” MGO’s success caught the eye of SCRAMP management, and soon the agency, All Fields Sports, was put on a sponsorship-finding retainer.

Fields (at right) with one of WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca’s most popular team co-owners, David Letterman.

“We were pretty effective,” Fields said. “We brought five or six sponsors primarily to ALMS, and kind of found our way through that space.”

But all too soon, changes at SCRAMP led to the track and its agency going their separate ways. Fields was left wondering what to do, but not for long: “I’d already struck up a good working relationship with the track, and decided to start my own agency with the racetrack as my one and only client.

“I’ve been there ever since, representing that racetrack since July 2000,” Fields added, noting that since 2018 he has been contracted with the County in a much expanded role.

“I didn’t come from motorsports. I’ve learned it, though. I’m all about the overall revenue development and event marketing — the promotions and the business of holding events. That’s my passion, and I have come to love and admire this place, WeatherTech Raceway — especially the volunteers who helped keep Laguna Seca afloat all these years, defining it as their own piece of themselves. I connect with them, you know?”

Indeed, the LSRF board funded the effort to get a new Volunteer Association organized.

“Recently, Lee Ames and the paddock guys kind of stepped up and said, ‘Here, we’ll carry the torch,’ Fields explained. “They’re the ones who recently signed a deal to be the new volunteer arm for the track operator. They are all great people — fantastic, well-intended people who are passionate about that track.”

Fields’ family has grown up at the Raceway: Son Jake (now 17) has attended every Rolex Reunion since 2005, posing yearly for photos with his favorite cars.

Back to the Laguna Seca Raceway Foundation. Project-wise, what’s on the immediate horizon?

“Well, the facility has some significant needs, but we have our eyes on a couple of things. We need to look at projects that benefit both the racers and the fans. We need and want racers to come back and enjoy the facility, but just as critically, we need this facility to live up to a standard that fans will want to come out and enjoy. WeatherTech Raceway has become the epicenter in North America for historic and vintage racing, and those collectors and enthusiasts are a key for us. How might they donate and contribute to projects aimed at benefiting the fans and the community at large, help this facility live and prosper long into the future?

“What will most benefit the facility from an overall aesthetics and usability standpoint?” Fields continued. “We have four or five projects that are top of list, everything from shade for the fans to something as grand as owners garages with a clubhouse and a few things in between.”

“First, though, we have something else to do. We have to change the perception of who we are and who we’re benefiting. We’ve been caught in a quagmire of messaging, not knowing how to tell the story of who we’re here for. What are we here for? We’re here for this amazing 64-year-old strip of asphalt buried in these hillsides.

“For the Foundation,” Fields emphasized, “Task No. 1 is getting out the message that we exist to benefit WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. We’re clear on that message, so now it’s up to us to get out there and start generating awareness for the fans who just want association with this phenomenal racetrack.

“Several years ago we launched the Steps to the Corkscrew campaign,” Fields noted, “$200, $250, up to a thousand dollars to buy a paver that would live on the Corkscrew for who knows how long — forever, maybe. Now we’re looking to rekindle that campaign: I have an entire folder of people who want to buy bricks — people who love the place and want their name on the Corkscrew.

“That’s just one of the initiatives we’re considering to complement what we are all about.”

Fields was instrumental in securing $2 million with Red Bull to fund the the new Turn 1 Pavilion in 2006, the first new renovation at Laguna Seca in decades.

Fields is a believer in make-it-happen: “I’m a unique character in this puzzle, having more tenure than anyone at that race track and being a representative of the County, working with the track operator, and sitting on the Foundation board. It’s a lot of hats…but I love it and I love this hallowed ground.”

Steve Fields wears all those hats well.

For more information on the Laguna Seca Raceway Foundation, check out its Facebook page or log onto lsrfnd.org.

UP NEXT IN PART 5: Panache, with Foundation Board member Danny Sullivan