Drivers, Start Your Engineering
Designing MEP and Lighting for a Clubhouse at Sonoma Raceway
Most people associate Sonoma, California with wineries. But among racecar enthusiasts, the area is famed for a different reason: It is home to Sonoma Raceway, once known as Sears Point, a premier motorsport entertainment destination resting on 1,600 acres of California wine country hillsides that hosts NASCAR, Ferrari Challenge and other high-profile events.
The Raceway’s latest claim to fame is the Turn 11 building, located at (you guessed it) Turn 11 — a challenging hairpin turn that is the slowest part of the track.
Designed by Perkins Eastman and completed just before the 2022 Toyota/Save Mart 350 NASCAR Cup Series race weekend, the ground-up Clubhouse offers a premium, luxury hospitality and viewing experience, and functions as a multi-use venue for corporate events, product showcases, private meetings and more. To the delight of Syska’s Jose Herrera and Robert Fagnant, both racecar enthusiasts, Perkins Eastman hired Syska for MEP engineering and architectural lighting design.
The project stayed on track, but there were a few roadblocks. Our pit crew team of Jose, the principal in charge of MEP, and Robert, who served as the project manager and lead lighting designer, told Connections about how they navigated around them.
“We created a separate false element on the bottom of the ceiling and we integrated the lights into that,”
The clubhouse resembles a grand Sonoma winery, with an inviting environment that features stone and redwood. To support this ambience, the Syska teams had to figure out ways to effectively “hide” their work. The sloped ceilings, for example, had no cavities for utilities or lights. And although large ceiling fans were installed, they didn’t present a viable hiding place for the lighting. As Robert explains, “You can’t put lights above those because then you get strobe effects, which is not good.”
The solution was false beams. “We created a separate false element on the bottom of the ceiling and we integrated the lights into that,” Robert says. “The element looks like a steel channel across the space. You don’t see the lights, and the power comes in from the ends.”
An exception to the “hiding” rule is the custom-made Luminaire that greets visitors when they enter the lobby. The fixture is shaped like the racetrack.
"The building is beautiful. I love to visit it. And I can’t wait to get started on the garages!”
The indoor/outdoor nature of the event space, with its multiple sets of folding glass doors along the racetrack-facing wall, presented opportunities for multi-mode efficient mechanical systems. These were composed of ceiling fans and VRF systems that provided cooling, heating, and ventilation. During race events these doors are expected to be fully open, at which times the fan coil serving the event space will be turned off. Although the indoor space will be generally comfortable due to Sonoma’s temperate climate, the ceiling fan can further enhance comfort. If the doors are closed, the VRF system will provide the necessary cooling or heating to the space. The rest of the interior zones and non-event rooms are also served by the highly efficient VRF.
The team also designed a variety of mechanical systems for the commercial kitchen and the warming kitchen, both of which are all-electric. “Our MEP systems serving the kitchen are pretty extensive,” says Jose. “As a result, food can be prepared and served at multiple events simultaneously.” He adds that the kitchens also were equipped with ample plumbing utilities, as were the bathrooms and landscaping.
According to Jose and Robert, the hospitality building is only the first of several projects at the Raceway. Next on the agenda is MEP and lighting design for a set of private garages along the east side of the track, just before Turn 11.
“The Raceway is already iconic,” says Jose. “But these new amenities are solidifying its cachet as a destination.” Robert agrees. “The building is beautiful,” he states. “I love to visit it. And I can’t wait to get started on the garages!”
“We are delighted with Syska’s work in creating a space that reflects the natural beauty of Sonoma’s Wine Country while giving our guests a premier experience,” said Jill Gregory, executive vice president and general manager of Sonoma Raceway. “Turn 11 is a big part of our vision to be a luxury motorsport destination and top-of-mind for event planners.”