Better than Disneyland?
Maybe. Maybe not.
But Podium Raceway in Kapolei promises to be an E-ticket ride that rivals Mickey’s Autopia … without guide rails. Located inside the former Barbers Point commissary building, the electric karts travel on a quarter-mile concrete serpentine track with four speeds that range from 10 to 45 mph.
The grand opening is Jan. 1, from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m.
"Our vision was to add racing and family fun to Hawaii," said Mark Jeffries, one of the Partners of Podium Raceway Hawaii. "We’re an alcohol-free facility and we see this as a great place for birthday parties and corporate events.
"We have a state-of-the-art conference room and corporations can do team-building. At the end of the night, you can run races with your team and someone walks away with first, second and third from the podium."
PODIUM RACEWAY HAWAII
» Indoor electric kart racing
» 91-1085 Lexington Street, Kapolei
» 682-RACE (7223)
» 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Monday-Thursday
» 10 a.m.-midnight, Friday-Saturday
» Grand opening: 11 a.m., Jan. 1
» Adults: $25 nonmembers, $20 PRH members. Juniors: $20/$15
» Membership: $5.95 annually, with discounts for military, fire, police and lifeguards
Billed as "Hawaii’s Fast Lane," the "Arrive and Drive" process begins with computer registration, waiver signing and — for first-timers — a mandatory briefing session on rules and safety. Adults race for 14 laps and juniors for nine laps; single racers are allowed or up to 12 drivers per race, which normally lasts 10 minutes.
Following each session, a driver receives a computer-generated race result sheet that allows for comparison of race times against yourself or others. Drivers can also check online to compare times for the best of the week or month.
The cost (see box) includes helmets, head socks and neck cushions. Covered shoes are required.
And, just like Disneyland, there is a minimum height requirement: 48 inches for juniors 6 and older, 55 inches for an adult kart.
"Our goal was to create a thriving, safe, healthy, family environment, and we’ve definitely achieved that, from the rehabilitation of our building to our use of the most energy-efficient lighting and air conditioning, to our all electric karts," said Neil Tsutsui, another of the PPRH.
Jeffries and Tsutsui, two North Shore residents, are also licensed contractors. They said it took about seven months to completely renovate the 44,000-square foot former commissary and "it looked like a war zone sometimes," Tsutsui said. "We did a lot of the work ourselves, rented the heavy equipment. It’s amazing what has happened in the past few months."
"It was a dilapidated building, completely stripped out, no electrical," Jeffries added. "We started from scratch."
What has been created is a clean, environmentally friendly atmosphere. The electric karts are emission-free and there’s even an Elkay EZH2O water refill station that allows guests to refill their personal water bottle without the waste of paper cups normally associated with water coolers.
Safety is key. Each kart has a transponder that is controlled by a master controller who can control the race speed.
If, for example, someone is driving unsafely, the controller can lower the speed or stop the kart completely. Drivers can also have their speed increased as they become more comfortable on the track.
At the end of each race, times are posted on the screen above the awards podium.
Besides the two party rooms, VIP room and conference room, there is an arcade. A restaurant is planned, but until then pizza slices and beverages are available for purchase.
Those holding parties are allowed to bring in their own refreshments.
"Hawaii needs some place where families can have fun," said Linda Dela Cruz, on the track during a preview session last week. "And this is fun."