Work recently began on The Clubhouse grounds to add not only an eco-friendly, electronically controlled go cart track, but also fields for soccer training and competition.
The project, an investment of about $1 million, is the third major enhancement in a less than a year by The Clubhouse, the commercial sports and entertainment complex on Old Register Road. Owners Darin and Netra Van Tassell took part in a groundbreaking ceremony in late March, and local, general contractor Lavender and Associates Inc. is now building the Coca-Cola 125 Raceway and preparing the soccer grounds.
The concrete raceway will be an 800-foot loop, but not a simple oval. It will have banked turns plus undulations and changes in elevation, as shown in the plan Darin Van Tassell shared last week. A standard race of more than six laps will equal 1.25 miles, hence "125." A building, apart from the main Clubhouse complex, will house the 28 fully electric go carts.
"That's the edgy part of this that's kind of cool, because electric carts have so much more torque, meaning when you accelerate, you go. There's no gears to go through," said Van Tassell. "But because there's no gas and oil and oil filters to deal with, there's no pollution."
These carts could go as fast as many gasoline-powered models but will be controlled, for safety, to no more than 18-20 mph, Van Tassell said. In fact, they can be centrally programmed for different maximum speeds.
"So for different age groups you can have them at different speeds and make it safer," he said.
Half of the carts will be two-seaters, enabling friends, a couple on a date, or a parent and child to ride together. Loudspeakers behind the seat will provide sound effects in each cart, including accelerator-sensitive engine noise and comments from a crew chief. Instructions for safe operation will also be provided through the audio system.
A "turbo" button will supply a four-second, 20 percent boost for passing.
Statesboro Coca-Cola Bottling Co. is the track's sponsor in a continuing arrangement with The Clubhouse.
"Coca-Cola is proud to sponsor the Coca-Cola 125 raceway," Dennis Key, sales center manager for Coca-Cola Bottling Co. United, said in a press release provided by The Clubhouse. "Darin and Netra continue to do a phenomenal job of developing this facility and continually adding to its appeal."
The raceway is expected to open for business in early summer.
Meanwhile, Storm Soccer Academy will be preparing to kick off its first Statesboro season this fall. Storm SA, based in Savannah and with programs also in Hilton Head and Bluffton, S.C., enrolls about 750 boys and girls ages 3-18, reports owner and coaching director Jeremy Aven.
"We train kids who have potential or are serious or interested in doing something above and beyond a recreational soccer experience," Aven said.
The Statesboro soccer programs, for ages 4 and up, will include training on The Clubhouse fields for each age bracket. For the youngest players, games will be exclusively in Statesboro. For older children, some games will be in Statesboro and some in Savannah.
"We're breaking into Statesboro," Aven said. "We're going to have a facility. So we're starting small but it's probably going to grow very quickly."
The soccer space will accommodate two regulation fields and permit rotation of play to minimize wear. It could also be subdivided to provide eight youth soccer fields.
"It allows us to host soccer events here, and we'll have teams from Florida and South Carolina and North Carolina and Georgia where they'll be playing here, staying at our hotels, hopefully using The Clubhouse, too," Van Tassell said.
Creating construction work now, the expansion is expected to add about 20 more jobs at The Clubhouse, which currently has about 65 full- and part-time employees.
2013 saw the remodeling and expansion of the Spikes Sports Grill and Bar and the addition of the Evasion Training Center adjacent the laser tag arena. A walk-in videogame experience, the Evasion Training Center gets players moving to music on a lighted surface while they try to avoid lasers.
Opened as Hackers Golf Park in November 1998, the business became The Clubhouse with the debut of the indoor entertainment center in October 2010, although Hackers is still part of it.
The Clubhouse also offers 24 lanes of bowling, including four luxury lanes in a private party suite, as well as a technically advanced electronic arcade, a mini golf course, mini bowling, laser tag, batting cages, a pro shop and the Ballocity indoor playground, plus space for meetings, parties and other events. The Clubhouse Sports Academy operates four traveling baseball teams.
With this expansion, The Clubhouse will have developed about two-thirds of its approximately 60 acres.
"I think it says a lot about how we feel about Statesboro and Bulloch County and is yet another sign, hopefully, of the growth that's going on around here," said Van Tassell.
Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9454.