Auto racetracks and rock concert venues are often seen as noisy land uses with the potential to generate monster traffic jams. Rare is the homeowner who wants a speedway or concert amphitheater in his back yard. Thus, the lack of opposition to plans to build a speedway and amphitheater in southern Yuba County is extraordinary — but no more extraordinary than the fact that this $90 million development is pegged for one of California's poorest counties. Preliminary grading and road work has commenced for the Yuba County Motorplex, a 900-acre development among the rice fields between Highways 65 and 70 about 10 miles south of Marysville and, more importantly, 30 miles north of Sacramento. Developers Frank Arciero Sr. of Orange County and Gerald R. Forsythe of Illinois plan a 1.3-mile oval track, a drag strip and several road courses. At the far end of the site, San Francisco's Bill Graham Presents plans a 20,000-seat amphitheater, which is scheduled to open in spring of 2000. The projects were approved when 84 percent of Yuba County voters backed a 1998 initiative that created a sports and entertainment zoning district, said James Manning, Yuba County community development director. The new zoning specifically allows a racetrack and concert venue. The county had been processing a zoning amendment and conditional use permit, and it had circulated a draft environmental impact report. However, a few opponents were slowing the process, so county supervisors put the initiative on the ballot, Manning said. Arciero paid for election costs. All the developers need now are building permits, because "all the regular review processes stopped" upon approval of the initiative, Manning said. Both the racetrack and the amphitheater ended up in Yuba County (population 61,000) after communities in the Sacramento metropolitan region showed ambivalence, if not outright hostility, toward earlier proposals. "Frank Arciero had done a lot of searching before he chose this site," said Norm Richards, construction manager for the motorplex. "He had found a more desirable site, but it happened to be in Sutter County. Sutter County wouldn't hardly even talk to him about it." That site along Highway 99 sits just north of the Sacramento County line, near Sacramento International Airport. Arciero also searched near the northeastern Sacramento suburbs in Placer County, but he got nowhere, Richards said. Sutter County Planning Division Director Tom Last said Arciero spoke with county officials but never filed an application. South Sutter County's 10,500-acre commercial and industrial reserve probably could have accommodated the speedway, he said. "County staff clearly would have supported it. It would have been a matter of them mitigating all the impacts and getting approval from the Board of Supervisors," Last said. Bill Graham Presents spent five years searching for a site to construct a replacement for its now-closed facility at Cal Expo in Sacramento, said Tim O'Brien, BGP's project manager. Sacramento, Roseville, Folsom, Elk Grove and Woodland all had potential amphitheater sites. But it was Yuba County that cooperated. "We didn't find that anywhere else," O'Brien said. "We ran into a lot of different issues — noise and traffic. When you're dealing with a facility like an amphitheater, you're dealing with a lot of perception versus reality." The facility's site — a 35-minute drive from downtown — is not a problem, O'Brien contended. "People are going to go where the talent is playing," he said. Early stages of motorplex construction have slowed because even small amounts of rain turn the former rice fields into equipment-sucking bogs. Still, developers intend to have the drag strip and seating for 10,000 fans complete this year. Construction of the oval track and seating for another 40,000 spectators probably will begin in spring of 2000, with racing likely in 2001, Richards said. The significance of the speedway and amphitheater for Yuba County is difficult to overestimate. Incomes are modest in Yuba County, where and the February unemployment rate of 14.7 percent was nearly 2 1/2 times greater than the state average. The motorplex will employ 50 to 75 people full-time and 120 to 150 people during races. Major events should provide work for up to 500 vendors. Bill Graham Presents plans 25 to 40 shows a year between April and October at a facility modeled on BGP's Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View. The amphitheater, on about 90 acres BGP purchased from Arciero, will employ up to 650 people on the day of shows and have a small year-round staff, O'Brien said. Additionally, about 70 acres are designated for industrial development and could provide up to 1,500 jobs. All 900 acres lie within the Yuba-Sutter Enterprise Zone, which gives businesses tax credits for hiring employees and buying equipment, said Mary Hansen, enterprise zone manager. Contacts: Norm Richards, Yuba County Motorplex construction manager, (530) 741-3100. Tim O'Brien, Bill Graham Presents project manager, (415) 541-0800. James Manning, Yuba County community development director, (530) 741-6419.