An indoor banked clay oval go-kart track in north Bakersfield rolled one step closer to reality on Tuesday with a permit approval from the city’s Board of Zoning Adjustment.
With a conditional use permit from the BZA, partners Nick Sylvester and Joey Yantis plan to open Bakersfield Karting Experience by November. It will include two indoor kart tracks, a golf pro shop and simulator, an arcade and full-service restaurant.
The business will occupy about 50,000 square feet of the 132,000-square foot former Costco building at 3101 Gilmore Ave., just across the parking lot from Temblor Brewing Co. and Rush Air Sports. Reliable Moving & Storage occupies a portion of the rest.
The partners said they chose an indoor banked clay track, open to the public as a so-called “arrive and drive” operation, because they didn’t think it had been done in the U.S. and because it challenges drivers.
“There’s just something funner about sliding a car around a corner rather than keeping it straight. It’s a little more difficult, a little more challenging,” Yantis said.
“Nobody’s ever had a dirt oval that’s been open to the public,” Sylvester said, noting the surface is gaining in popularity, “and so we thought we’d get in ahead of it.”
Both men are former dirt modified and late-model racers and now have children who race karts.
“We thought, how cool would it be to do a race track our way and have a place for our kids to hone their skills, as well as open it up to the public,” Sylvester added.
Ron Perry, a board member for the Central California Kart Racing Association, said clay tracks are gaining momentum on the West Coast, and this particular example could be a national first.
“There’s no show like a dirt show. You cannot beat karts sideways, slicing and dicing,” said Mike Kappmeyer, who operates the Santa Maria Speedway, an outdoor, one-third mile banked clay oval opened in 1964. “It might be a totally original idea.”
Steve Fogle, owner of Thunder Valley Speedway, a one-fifth mile outdoor clay oval in South Carolina, disagreed.
“No, it’s not a first. There’s a couple in the state of South Carolina,” Fogle said, adding, “I wish them well with it.”
He wasn’t able to name the two facilities, though.
Go-kart tracks were not a permitted use for the building, which is on land zoned for manufacturing, but the zoning board approved a CUP with a 3-0 vote and no discussion.
Architect Greg Frank of Skarphol Associates said the project should be ready for application of building permits next week.
The clay kart track will be one-ninth of a mile, and operators will rent 22 nine-horsepower Bintelli racing karts capable of more than 40 miles per hour.
In the track’s infield will be a second, concrete oval track for children ages four through eight, with slower karts. A third track for electric, radio-controlled vehicles will be elsewhere.
Gregory D. Bynum, CEO of Gregory D. Bynum and Associates Inc., part of a partnership that owns the building at 3101 Gilmore and two others nearby, said the CUP is the next step toward turning the area into an entertainment destination.
Immediately west of the former Costco building is the former Home Base building that’s now home to Rush Air Sports, co-owned by Bynum’s son David Bynum; and Temblor Brewing Co., started by Bynum scion Don Bynum and Tom Maxwell.
“We’re trying to create a, you know, an entertainment retail complex that’s destination-oriented for Bakersfield basically,” the elder Bynum said. “We hope to eventually fill it up with complimentary uses.”
“I think we’re very excited about it. An indoor dirt track, it’s a higher level than the slick tracks you usually see,” said Don Bynum, adding he’s hopeful the restaurant will offer Temblor brew on tap.