There will soon be a speedy new business on the site of the former Pittsfield Elementary School.
A new firm Pittsfield Professional Karting Association (PPKA) has signed a letter of intent and paid earnest money to the Warren County Chamber of Business and Industry, according to Jim Decker, WCCBI president. The property comes with a little over 32 acres of land.
Decker said on Wednesday that PPKA has six months before closing the deal to get the necessary permitting and engineering work completed.
Jim Kays and Don Thomas have formed the Pittsfield Championship Karting Association, which will be fully sanctioned by the World Karting Association (WKA). Thomas said the preliminary paperwork shouldn't take that long, and Kays is hoping to get at least one race in "before the snow flies."
Two tracks are planned: a one-eighth mile dirt track with a 'D' shape and a seven-tenths of a mile paved track.
He added, "Once the stormwater run-off plans are in place, building the dirt track might take a week. We should have a full season next year, if we don't have issues."
Kays noted that sanctioning is important to the business, and the WKA will take a hard look at all aspects of the business before giving its approval. He said they even look at restrooms.
"It can't be a fly-by-night operation," Kays said.
Kays indicated they have a number of corporate sponsors ready to come on board.
Regarding the building, Kays said, "We will absolutely not be tearing it down." He added that they have plans for the future for the building, although they weren't willing to be specific this early.
Decker expects the track will have a significant impact locally, especially for sport-related businesses, and will attract racers and their fans from out of the area. "Whole families are involved, it's family friendly." he said.
He spoke of how the economy is driving people from racing full-sized cars into the less expensive go-karts, although the karts are not exactly cheap.
Kays said, "This is more for kids, but adults are welcome. Like our family, we all race." There will also be a club, where members help out with parking and other logistics in return for credits that can be used to use the facility for things like practice.
The paved Master Track, he said, will have "elevation changes, nice g-force banked turns and electronic timing, the whole nine yards."
He added that they would run races in conjunction with neighboring states, where points would be earned for season totals, similar to the NASCAR point system.
He said that the different classes of karts and racing would run from the "Kid Karts all the way up to the Shifter Karts."
They plan to be in the Northeast Shifter Kart Series, who run races in Boston, Oakview, N.Y., and at Pittsburgh International Speedway. By participating, they will be eligible to host the national championships, a week-long event that attracts thousands of racers.
They plan on starting an Arrive and Drive next year, where the track would supply a kart and all necessary equipment for one fee. There will also be an all-day driving school for kids and beginners. A campground for the exclusive use of the racers and their families is planned, and they will sell karts manufactured by Birel, an Italian company.
Kays said, "We don't want to step on other tracks' toes, we will work with them. With the dirt series, we will jump in with tracks in Ohio and New York."
"The three keys to success for this kind of operation are bathrooms, food and a good facility," he added. Grandstands for the tracks will be American Disabilities Act compliant, and they will use independent food and parts vendors. They are also taking parking into consideration for future expansion and events.
"Its been great working with the WCCBI," Kays concluded, and Decker added, "We are excited to see this. It will be great for the community."