Andretti Karting, run by the famous Andretti racing family, is due to open its latest – and flagship – Indoor Karting & Games complex in Orlando this June.
Blooloop spoke to two key members of the team about the $30 million new venue.
Featuring multi-level tracks and various other indoor attractions, the 144,000+ square feet (13,378 sq m) outlet adjacent to the Orange County Convention Center also offers quality fresh food and 9,000 square feet of meeting space with an eye to a corporate clientele.
From jousting to racing
Edison Hamann (right) is Managing Member for Andretti Indoor Karting & Games. Born in Columbia, he moved to school in the States in 1988, graduating in business from New York, before moving to Orlando in 1989. Working his way up through the ranks at the Medieval Times dinner show, he moved to Daytona in 1995 to open the SpeedPark speedway. This was where, just one year later, he met John Andretti, nephew of racing legend Mario Andretti. The two had raced in NASCAR and the IndyCar series.
“We hit it off, developing a friendship very quickly, and the idea was born to build an FEC with his name,” recalls Hamann. “We decided to build the first facility in Melbourne, Florida in 1999: an outdoor facility with go-karts, video games, miniature golf, bumper boats, a couple of rides and laser tag.”
Its success gave rise to the idea of building an indoor FEC with a corporate environment.
“In 2001 we opened the first corporate facility in Roswell, Georgia. By then, Mario, Michael, Marco and the rest of the Andretti family were involved. It took a while to get all the systems and the right people to help us grow it, and it wasn’t until 2014 that we decided to take the facilities nationwide, which is when we built our Marietta facility in Georgia. And now we are going to Orlando, and the future.”
Orlando is a market that the Andretti Karting team knows well, having lived and worked there for many years.
“We started looking for a suitable site in Orlando around 2011,” says Harmann. “Proximity to the Convention Center was a key factor in the selection of a site. One third of our business is convention business. We do a lot of team-building. Good food is a major component of our business. It plays a big part in corporations returning to do events with our company.”
The Orlando outlet, predicted to welcome as many as half a million go-kart-loving guests per year, is a much larger concern than the other centres in the Andretti Karting portfolio. It showcases a number of unique attractions from leading suppliers.
A Mario Andretti racing car will welcome guests outside the main building. Signature features inside include the multi-level Andretti-designed go-kart tracks which can, on occasion, be joined into one long track.
“These tracks are going to be elevated on three levels,” notes Harmann. “If we have a big group or a buyout, someone wants to buy themselves the facility for the day; we can put these tracks together and we run 30, 40 people at a time in one race.”
There will be a 12 seater XD Dark Ride interactive theatre from Triotech; a ropes course with the first curved Sky Rail zipline in the Orlando area, supplied by Ropes Courses Inc; and a 4,500 sq ft (418 sq m) laser tag facility from Creative Works. The latter will be themed to resemble the inside of an engine, where players will battle using equipment from Delta Strike around such features as firing pistons. There will also be 12 lanes of bowling by Qubica AMF, hundreds of video games from the distributor Betson, plus professional racing simulators from CXC Simulation.
The rope course will be a 7 pole, 1 level Sky Trail Discovery with 11 elements standing 27 feet tall. A highlight will be the “rolling log”, which participants must carefully balance on they try to cross. it also features a 60′ curved Sky Rail zip line. The capacity is 20 people at one time on the attraction.
“The simulators are actual simulators that professional drivers use,” says Hamman. ”We will have six of those with VR goggles. The virtual reality means that you actually feel like you’re in the car on the racetrack. You can look to the side and see other drivers, the other cars; it’s a pretty good experience.”
Fresh food and family attractions
With processed food firmly off the menu, the Andretti Grill will deliver American favourites made from scratch with quality ingredients.
“We now have brick oven pizza, something that Mario wanted to have in Marietta and it worked out really well,” explains Hamman. “We bring all the ingredients from Italy, it’s really a phenomenal pizza. We have two bars, surrounded by 110 LED screens. It means that people can just come in and watch a game, have dinner, have a drink. They don’t necessarily have to do karting or anything else.”
Effectively, as it is a pay-per-play facility visitors can design their own experience.
“We will have families that come in, and while the kids are playing and driving and hanging around, the parents will be having a nice dinner, all in one place. We appeal to all demographics; all age groups. There are a million people that live in Orlando, and most of our customers will be locals. However we have a marketing team that will be exploring all markets. They’ll also be working with the Orange County Convention Center, talking to tour operators and hotels. And everyone has a cell phone, so we are going to be putting a lot of emphasis on digital media and digital marketing.”
Samantha LaMagna, Andretti’s Senior Marketing Manager, describes the marketing efforts in more detail: “We are very active on social media; we’ve got Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Snapchat. We do a lot of Facebook Live videos; we do a lot of Periscope. And we are working with a digital agency that is going to be doing a lot of the paid ads through Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, depending on what demographic we are trying to reach. We will also be doing a lot with Google Ads and SEO [search engine optimisation].”
Targeting convention goers
“I don’t want to give away all our tricks,” adds LaMagna, “but I will say that, using geo-fencing, we are targeting mobile with in-app ads. It’s going to help us a lot, because we can geo-fence the Convention Center and deliver ads to convention goers.”
Andretti Karting will also be employing traditional advertising on billboards, TV and radio for the facility in Orlando. Yet one of its main focuses will be digital and social outreach, stresses Hamann.
“Our chief operating officer comes from a very customer service driven background, he worked at Disney for many years. The Andretti team is aware that customers today are very sophisticated. At a very early age, they start handling social media and cutting-edge technology. It’s just part of their day-to-day life at home.”
At Marietta, our simulators were just simple screens, and now we are moving to virtual reality. Through IAAPA and through our suppliers we keep up with technology to make sure that we are providing our customers with the best. Ultimately, we feel that the human interaction and contact, the cleanliness of the facility and the quality of our food is what is going to make customers come back to Andretti Karting. Technology will get them to the door the first time, that and how nice the place looks. Once they are here though, we all have to do our part to make sure that they come back.”
In Orlando in particular, with all that competition for discretionary spend, it will be essential to take care of every Andretti Karting customer and make them feel welcome, concludes Harmann: “No matter how much technology you have at home, no matter how sophisticated the capacity for home gaming, you cannot duplicate the environment of a facility like ours. When guests come in there are other families playing and having a good time; the food, the lighting, the atmosphere, the staff – it is all is geared to the enjoyment of the customer. I think places like Andretti Karting will survive as long as we maintain that high level of customer service.”
The all-new flagship Andretti Indoor Karting & Games is located at 9299 Universal Boulevard, Orlando – just a short hop from the Orange County Convention Center.