Autobahn to open Southside go-kart track

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Autobahn Indoor Speedway, a Tampa-based indoor go-kart racetrack developer, plans to open a $2 million Jacksonville facility in April in Southside.

Autobahn Managing Director David Larson said Saturday the Jacksonville track will employ 35 people. Autobahn's first track opened in May in Maryland.

"The favorable demographics of Jacksonville were a big part of our decision. There also are a lot of race enthusiasts in the Jacksonville area," Larson said by email.

City Council will consider a rezoning application for the racetrack, planned in an 80,000-square-foot warehouse at 6601 Executive Park Court N., between Philips Highway and Interstate 95, north of Butler Boulevard.

The 4.37-acre property needs to be reclassified from Industrial Business Park to Planned Unit Development. Liberty Property Limited Partnership owns the building. Larson said he could not disclose the length of the lease.

Larson said about 60,000 square feet of the space will be used for two tracks. The remaining space will include meeting rooms and party rooms.

State corporate records show Autobahn Indoor Speedway LLC was created in Tampa in October 2012 and Autobahn Indoor Speedway Jacksonville LLC was formed Oct. 7.

Larson said he planned to open three or four speedways in 2014, though he declined to identify those locations.

He said Autobahn Indoor Speedway seeks economic incentives, but did not have details about any in Jacksonville. He said the company used a state small-business loan program in Maryland.

A May 24 news release from the Howard County Economic Development Authority in Maryland quoted Larson.

"At Autobahn Indoor Speedway, everyone can be a race driver and feel the rush of being behind the wheel of Italian-made adult racing karts that approach speeds of 50 mph," Larson said in the release.

Larson said the speedway features high-performance racing electric karts that can be driven on either of two indoor Grand Prix-style tracks.

The speedway provides equipment, including clean head socks and full-face helmets. It offers the "Arrive & Drive" race format in which racers are assigned to one of the upcoming races, so reservations are not required. Up to 10 drivers compete in each race to set the fastest lap time.

The website reported April 9 that Autobahn Indoor Speedway General Manager Bill Harris said the company was spending $1.75 million to lease and renovate a 60,000-square-foot Jessup, Md., building, buy the go-karts and mechanical equipment and install technology.

The facility has a 50,000-square foot racetrack area, with the remaining space divided among spectator areas, a meeting room that seats 40 and a party room that seats 20, according to said research shows that customers will travel as far as 25 miles to visit a go-kart racetrack. 

The website said that while individuals can buy race tickets, the marketing effort is geared toward birthday parties and corporate events. The Jessup speedway also is setting up a racing league with cash prizes.

"One of the reasons we selected this area is because there are so many corporate businesses and regional offices in the private sector, government agencies and military installations," said Harris.

The Maryland speedway has 50 go-karts, of which 10 are "junior karts," for children. Autobahn Indoor Speedway has a staff of 20 there and Harris said the goal is to generate $2 million per year in sales during its first 12 months of operation.

Larson said he could not disclose the first year revenue goal for the Jacksonville speedway.

He said participant costs are $19.99 for 14 laps and three races for $40 Monday-Thursday.

Larson said the Jacksonville hours will be the same as Jessup's: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-midnight Friday; 10 a.m.-midnight Saturday; and 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday.

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