CaliforniaDestinationsSonomaUSA

Sonoma Raceway

Sonoma Raceway is an accessibility dream. A $70 million Modernization Plan resulted in an impressive property, including accessible parking, shuttles, tunnels, elevators, and ramps to get people with mobility challenges around this huge property. A fixture in Sonoma Valley for almost 50 years, first as Sears Point Raceway then Infineon Raceway, this is the Sonoma home for NASCAR, IndyCar, NHRA Drag Racing, and the Sonoma Historic Motorsports Festival.

Sonoma Raceway

29355 Arnold Dr
Sonoma, CA 95476
(707) 938-8448
http://www.racesonoma.com/

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For accessible parking enter Gate 1 off of Highway 121. Do NOT enter Gate 7 or 9!
We came on a non-race day for a private tour with Tim Boeve, Guest Services Manager, so there was hardly a car in sight. Expect a HUGE line of cars on actual race day and allow at least an hour more than your GPS tells you.

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In addition to major events, Wednesday Night Drags in conjunction with Sonoma Drift are held throughout the year. We had the chance to watch Sonoma Drift. I was able to pull up in my scooter and easily see over the barriers for a close-up view of the action. Accessible parking was available at the Raceway Cafe close-by.

Here’s a peek at what Sonoma Drift is. Amateurs and professionals with high-horsepower cars take to the track on a specially designed course in the paddock area. The driver controls the car at high speeds while it slides sideways, tires screeching, through a marked course. Rather than being a race, the drivers are judged on style and execution. This was kind of crazy to watch!
For more information, read about Sonoma Drift on their official website: racesonoma.com/racewayrace/drift/

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On major race days like NASCAR the entire Lower Lot is converted to van accessible parking for fans in wheelchairs and scooters. All other guests with disabilities are directed to the Upper Lot. These guys are organized! After parking you are given a color-coded Disabled Guest Wristband, along with your companions. An accessible shuttle will take you to the Grandstand/Paddock Information Tent, or beyond to Terrace seating and the Information Tents at Turns 2, 3, 7, and 9.

Disability parking placard abusers beware!

I was enthralled by this video. 40 tickets were issued in 72 hours to handicap placard cheaters, with fines up to $1075. There is a handicap placard checkpoint and cheaters are identified and fined by the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department. Be sure to bring your placard paperwork showing name and placard number along with your valid Driver’s License. Hooray for disability placard enforcement!

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The property is huge and the Main Grandstand is huge!  There are 6 flights of stairs to get to the top of the grandstand.  Permanent seating capacity at Sonoma Raceway is 47,000 people which increases to 102,000 people on major race days with the addition of temporary seating.  Yet they have figured out how to make it all accessible and convenient for people with mobility challenges.

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If your tickets are in the Main Grandstand Suite Level, Sonoma Raceway has you covered with an express elevator that is limited to those with Disabled Guest Wristbands.  Others must take the stairs, and there are volunteers to make sure no one cheats.  You will not be in competition with able bodied people to catch your ride on the elevator!
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Tim Boeve, Guest Services Manager, and my tour guide for the day, points out raceway details as I try out the accessible seating in the Suite Level. With this section being covered this is a great choice for those who are affected by heat. Sonoma summers can get hot!

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There is plenty of accessible seating with companion seats. Note that even with covered seating the sun will slant in at certain times of day. Be prepared.

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What a view of the racetrack! I felt like I was on top of the world.

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When it’s time for a snack or a restroom break, it’s an easy ride back down the elevator.

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If you want to be close to the action and have a sunny seat there is a ramp from the Main Grandstand ground entry to the lower level of the grandstand. These front row seats provide a great view of the track and there is ample accessible seating, along with companion seating.

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If you want to get to the opposite side of the track there is a long underground tunnel and a designated accessible elevator to avoid the stairs. It’s quite some distance to cross under the track so be sure you have the right mobility equipment. Another option is to take the accessible shuttle from the Information Tent just outside the Main Grandstand.

 

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In addition to Main Grandstand seating there is also Terrace seating in 4 different areas around the track, at Turns 2, 3, 7, and 9. Above the concrete benches is a viewing platform that accommodates numerous people in wheelchairs, scooters, and walkers. Folding chairs are provided for companion seats, and you can designate how many companion seats you need when you book tickets. Terrace seating is quite a distance from the Main Grandstand, but an accessible shuttle will bring you here from the Information Tent located at the Grandstand/Paddock.

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Though Terrace seating is far away from the Main Grandstand and the main food vendors, food is available here as well. The Sears Point Grill is a delightful hold-over from the old days when this was Sears Point Raceway. Portable toilets are added to the landscape on event days, including accessible toilets.

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Back in the area of the Main Grandstand you’ll find the Paddock Club, where you can purchase memorabilia or food.

TIPS:

• Bring the right mobility equipment to go distances. Even with all of the accessibility assistance there is a lot of ground to cover. If you use a cane at home you may want to bring a walker, scooter, or wheelchair.
• Summer daytime temperatures can soar, though it can get cool at night. Dress in layers. Bring a spray bottle. Wear a hat. Bring sunscreen and sunglasses.
• Buy a ticket in the shade in the grandstand if heat is of concern to you.
• Race days are long days. Think ahead for your personal needs like medications and water.
• If you plan to transfer to a concrete bench in the Terrace or a stadium seat in the Main Grandstand you may want to bring a cushion.
• Allow plenty of time to arrive before the race. There will be a long line of cars to enter the property, lots of people and distances to travel to get to your ticketed seat.
• You must buy tickets ahead of time.
Here is a 5 page guidebook that you should read in it’s entirety for more information on accessible seating, shuttle routes, wristbands, information tents, camping, and exiting the raceway.

PDF Guidebook for Guests with Disabilities:
http://www.racesonoma.com/documents/guidebook_for_guests_with_disabilities_2013.pdf

Click this link to see the view from each of the seating areas:
http://www.racesonoma.com/tickets/seating/

Sonoma Raceway complete schedule:
http://www.racesonoma.com/schedule/

Sonoma Raceway website:
http://www.racesonoma.com

Sonoma Raceway is located at the gateway to the Sonoma Valley and adds an entirely different element to the celebrated wine-tasting experience that people have come to expect. This is a place where memories are made.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Tim Boeve Reply

    Jeanne, what a beautiful job of telling the accessibility story at Sonoma Raceway. Thanks for getting the word out through your valuable web site.

    Tim Boeve

    • Jeanne Allen Reply

      Sonoma Raceway rocks! I wish that all tourism businesses were as aware and attentive to accessibility.

  2. Ivor Ambrose Reply

    Great article – thanks for this. So we are talking “Best Practice” here for people who have a mobility impairment. I hope lots of business managers get to see this example.

    • Jeanne Allen Reply

      Thanks Ivor! Feel free to share with your business manager contacts! An example like this is a good model for those who are starting to realize that accessibility is a huge market and worth investing in.

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