When the Coca-Cola 125 Raceway opens Friday, drivers of all ages - provided they're at least 7 years old and tall enough to reach both the steering wheel and brakes - will be able to experience the thrill of stock car racing in miniature.
It's a go-cart track, of course, the latest in The Clubhouse's offerings of family-oriented activities that already include bowling, highly interactive electronic games, laser tag, golf and batting practice, miniature golf and mini-bowling.
Darin and Netra Van Tassell, owners of The Clubhouse, hope to see a crowd Friday for the first day of racing.
"It will exceed everyone's expectations, and I hope there are a lot of good expectations," said Darin Van Tassell. "The buzz in the air about it all has been really fun to listen to, and people have been watching closely, so Friday will be a big day in the history of The Clubhouse."
The 28 carts, which arrived by carrier truck earlier this week, are digitally controlled. Their electric motors are reportedly capable of powering them to highway speeds, but they are governed down, for safety, to no more than 20 mph. Speakers behind the seats will bring drivers instructions on track rules and driving techniques, followed by engine sounds synchronized with acceleration, and even pit crew chatter.
"It's very virtual," said Van Tassell. "It will be like they're in an arcade game or videogame, except the videogame moves."
About half the carts are two-seaters, enabling parents to drive with younger children. Electronic controls will allow The Clubhouse staff to tailor speeds to age groups. But each driver will control a turbo-boost feature.
This cart system is considered state-of-the-art in the industry, and is advertised as environmentally friendly, since it eliminates the use of gasoline and motor oil.
A few laps around the hilly, twisting course add up to a 1.25-mile run, hence 125. Meanwhile, a real corporate sponsorship is another thing the cart track has in common with full-size professional auto racing.
As the raceway's sponsor, Statesboro Coca-Cola Bottling Co. will paint and maintain the carts, The Clubhouse announced in a news release.
"Since our opening in 2010, Coca-Cola has been such a supportive vendor," said Netra Van Tassell. "We're thankful for their continued interest and involvement with The Clubhouse and our growing attractions. The Coca-Cola 125 Raceway is going to be an exciting addition to the Statesboro community, and we're glad Coca-Cola is such a big part of it."
The Clubhouse staff is expected to increase to accommodate guest traffic, which is anticipated to total 1,200 people per day and 34,000 per month during the summer season, said the company's announcement.
Local construction firm Lavender and Associates served as general contractor for the 13-week project, including the pit building where cars will be recharged and drivers will take the wheel. Amusement Products, based in Chattanooga, manufactured the carts, and its affiliated company, Amusement Construction, designed and built the concrete track.
In addition to the Coca-Cola 125 Raceway and outdoor golf practice range and mini golf, the Clubhouse's 30-acre sports and entertainment complex features a 42,000-square foot indoor facility.
The remodeled and expanded Spikes Sports Grill and Bar features a new menu, along with beer and wine for guests 21 and older. On Old Register Road just beyond the U.S. 301 Bypass, the Clubhouse also has space for meetings, parties and other special events.
Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9454.