A beloved car show that drew thousands of people to Chanhassen each month has moved 6 miles south to Canterbury Park.
Cars and Coffee, a free event that offers guests complimentary doughnuts and coffee as they peruse 1,000 automobiles, including hot rods, vintage and exotic sports cars, had filled Chanhassen’s AutoMotorPlex for nine years. A growing crowd of car enthusiasts surpassed 10,000 during last month’s event, which runs the first Saturday of every month from April through October.
City officials complained those numbers were more than the venue could handle.
So promoters took their show down the road. Starting June 3, Cars and Coffee will relaunch at the Shakopee racetrack, where it will have twice the amount of space. “We’ll be able to grow into it,” said event co-founder Luis Fraguada, who claims it’s already the largest monthly automotive gathering in the United States.
Canterbury, which boasts massive surface lots, can supply 8,500 parking spaces for the recurring show — held from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. — before live racing begins. The partnership helps build on the track’s vision to establish itself as an entertainment destination in the south metro, said Jeff Maday, Canterbury Park spokesman.
“It keeps our name in the community,” Maday said. “The hope is that some of them drift into the building to play in the card room or enjoy live racing.”
The change in location was accelerated by the dust up with Chanhassen leaders, who cited public safety concerns after the packed show in April strained local resources. Since April 2016, eight Cars and Coffee events racked up 115 complaints related to illegal parking, exhibition driving and excessive noise, said Carver County Lt. Eric Kittelson.
The AutoMotorPlex, located at 8150 Audubon Road, held a special event permit with the city covering Cars and Coffee shows through 2017. It required at least three police officers be present for traffic control — at the promoters’ expense — and prohibited parking along Audubon Road and on private property.
The permit also covered around 2,000 visitors, but thousands more attended that day, said City Manager Todd Gerhardt. Increased traffic created back ups on Highway 5, Gerhardt said, and dozens ignored no parking signs.
Chanhassen officials required significant changes for event sponsors to keep their permit valid. They set a maximum limit of 2,500 guests at that the facility, suggesting that organizers presell tickets and use nearby park-and-ride facilities to shuttle people in to reduce traffic.
“The Motorplex was not designed to hold 10,000 people,” Gerhardt said. “We were open to ideas, but they really didn’t want to do anything different than they have in the past.”
Fraguada and co-founder Tyler Christopherson said shuttles would place an additional financial burden on them for an event where they earn no revenue. An assortment of sponsors handle most of their expenses.
Offers to pay for additional traffic control officers were not enough to appease officials, organizers said. They believed the event had always remained in compliance.
“Their requests were ridiculous,” said Fraguada, adding that the show has grown to 10,000 several times in the past on nice days. “They literally pushed us out of the city.”
Unable to compromise, Fraguada and Christopherson canceled the May event to search for a new venue. It was the first time they’d done so since the show began at the Motorplex.
On their website, the men explained that their show had clearly outgrown its location and they’d been planning to move for the 2018 season anyway. Canterbury Park, while still centrally located, will allow them to maintain their goal of hosting a no-cost automotive show, with the additional room for food trucks.
“We want it to be welcoming to everybody,” Christopherson said. “Whether you’re dirt poor or rich, you can come to the show and enjoy cars of all makes and models without paying any money to do so.”
Liz Sawyer • 612-673-4648