Indoor go karting centres in the North East have suffered “confusion” and “financial loss” by the Government’s decision to push back their reopening dates as the gradual easing of lockdown in England continues.
TeamSport, which operates indoor tracks across the country, was set to return to racing on April 12 alongside pubs and retail. However, following a late government decision on April 9, their doors will remain shut until the May 17. Tracks in Scotland and Wales will continue to open on schedule.
A statement published by TeamSport on Friday night said: “Late on Friday and without any prior consultation or warning the Government has created a brand-new category of “recreational driving facilities”, a term never before seen in any guidance or legislation and defined that this brand-new classification must close until at least May 17.”
According to Sam McNally, general manager of TeamSport’s Newcastle track, this announcement is a setback for everyone involved with the business.
He said: “The inconsistency around the government’s views on go karting has led to confusion and financial loss.
“From a business perspective I’m shocked. Businesses don’t just spring back into action. They take time, planning, preparation and most of all resources to reopen after a considerable period of closure.”
Mr. McNally also added the news will have a detrimental effect on the employees at the Scotswood Road complex. He said: “The loss of human factors like loss of engagement and the mental health of employees are also hard to quantify.”
The company will also take a financial hit. According, to Mr. McNally there was a significant investment by the company to help reopen tracks alongside the increased number of bookings for a busy predicted week.
He said: “A company of TeamSport’s size will have invested a minimum of one hundred thousand pounds across 35 centres nationally to ‘come back even stronger’ just to have that taken away at the last minute by a legislation reclassification.
“Four days prior to reopening on April 12 the company had in excess of two hundred and fifty thousand pounds worth of bookings in the calendar for the first week. All these customers have now either been refunded, credited or transferred to a future date.”
Unlike indoor karting, several outdoor centres have been able to open their doors for customers due to the natural increased airflow to disperse the virus. However indoor karting has adapted to the spread of the virus and Mr. McNally argues that venues were safe enough to open.
“Since Covid and Covid safe operation is so new to everyone, we and the company regularly improve working practices based upon the latest guidance and continued operational experience.
“Simply put, as a professional general manager, I wouldn’t open the doors if I didn’t think we could do so safely. Keeping staff and customers safe is our number one priority.”