A new “Axecitement” area has added axe throwing to the entertainment available at the kart racing establishment now called Indy Karting and Amusement. PHOTOS COURTESY INDY KARTING

Just 17 months after making one of the biggest splashes in Bluffton business history, the indoor karting complex in Belfair Village is evolving, leaving the K1 Speed franchise and changing its title to reflect its movement toward a more well-rounded family-fun experience.

The new signs reflect the name change to Indy Karting and Amusement, as Paul and Nikki McBride have sold the business to an Indiana-based investor group that plans to use the 45,000-square-foot Bluffton complex as an incubator for fun innovation, with hopes to use the location as a blueprint for further expansion.

General manager Colleen McBride and the current staff will all remain in place to make the transition to Indy Karting and renovate the location to reflect both a more fine-tuned experience for karting enthusiasts and a wider range of activities for families and visiting tourists.

“We’re excited about the future and the possibilities of this new team and the commitment they’re making to Bluffton as the core of their hopeful expansion,” Paul McBride said. “This was a dream for my Dad (Dennis) and I, for our whole family. That we were able to bring indoor karting to the Lowcountry, to give families other options beyond the beach, it has been an honor. We can’t wait to help build what’s next.”

McBride is excited about the new investment group and their dedication to providing the most professional karting experience in the country, while also committing to expand the businesses’ entertainment options.

All current gift cards and multi-race passes will still be honored at Indy Karting, as the new ownership will use the same ClubSpeed reservation and customer management system. One change patrons will see in the near future is the elimination of membership fees – a K1 Speed requirement – in favor of a new frequent visitors club. 

“We heard quite often, especially from tourists, that having to pay a membership fee just to race was a cost that didn’t make sense, especially when it may their only visit there. And we agree,” McBride said. “So this will give that plan to visit more often a club option that will offer discounts on racing, food and our new amusements.” 

Details for the new club are being finalized and will be announced when the company launches its revised website. 

One of the changes that was already in motion and has been completed is the addition of axe throwing via the Axecitement end grain projected target system. The activity replaces the VR arena previously located next to the track entrance. 

There will also be four duckpin bowling lanes added near the complex entrance. For those unfamiliar with duckpin, it is shorter (nine inches vs. 15 inches), slightly thinner and lighter than a ten-pin equivalent. The game is played more similar to candlepin, with three rolls per frame. The ball is drastically smaller – bigger than a candlepin ball but more similar to the size of a softball. The lanes are the same size as ten-pin.

This variety of bowling is gaining popularity, as you don’t need special bowling shoes (wear your sneakers) and it’s much more tailored to the casual bowler. Duckpin franchises like Pins Mechanical Co. are the latest trend, with the nearest duckpin experience currently at Moodright’s in Savannah. 

There is also a plan to add a kiddie track for toddlers and newbie racers. 

Diehard racers are also in for exciting changes. The racing will still be the centerpiece of the facility and the experience. In fact, the Indy Karting team is elevating the karting precision with the purchase of a new line of karts. 

The karts are coming in from CRG, one of the most respected kart makers in the world and among the winningest karts on professional circuits. The CRG karts will solve some of the issues raised by both amateur and more seasoned riders over the past year and a half.

The cart is made with dual motors on the left and right side of the kart, electronic braking and a 100 amp battery that will stay charged for far longer periods of time than the previous karts. The CRG can also be adjusted from an adult to a junior kart easily, allowing Indy Karting to eliminate two lanes worth of karts in the future and to ensure smoother races with less total karts continually switched in and out because of lower battery life. 

The new karts will also feature a hard compound tire and the race track will be refinished with an epoxy that mimics asphalt more than concrete. 

The CRGs will also be equipped with the Heads Up monitor system in the steering wheel column, allowing for riders to watch a pre-race safety video and to see their lap times and race position on their screens as they race. 

An additional feature will also bring the cool factor and entice Mario Kart fans to try the track. The karts will be equipped with combat karting, with holographic power-ups along the race course that will give racers advantages and obstacles to face just like the Nintendo classic. 

“It’s hard to list all the details this team has addressed. There are just so many improvements coming,” McBride said. Complex officials are targeting early summer to get all of the new equipment, attractions and improvements in place. But McBride said that the evolution will be continuous as the Indy Karting team tries new ideas in Bluffton.

“They are karting pros, have race professionals as part of the team, and I think the Lowcountry is going to be the beneficiary of being this company’s laboratory for new concepts,” McBride said. “We’re disappointed to be out of the day-to-day but thrilled that our staff is on board and ready for what’s next.”

Tim Wood is a veteran journalist based in Bluffton. timwood@blufftonsun.com.