NEW ALBANY — Owners of a unique new business opening this weekend in New Albany say they want to provide a place for remote control vehicle enthusiasts of all ages and skill levels to come have a good time.
Doors opened Saturday morning for a weekend-long grand opening for Hoosier RC Hobbyplex, a spacious venue in the Colonial Manor shopping center on Charlestown Road.
The business, in a building which once housed Kroger, features two dirt racetracks for remote control vehicles — one an off-road track, the other built flat for oval or figure-8 races — and a hobby shop packed with vehicles of varying brands, prices and parts.
Though the tracks are made from packed dirt, Eddie Henley, who owns the venue with his wife Angela, said the business is about good, clean fun. Henley's children, boys ages 5, 13 and 17 all race as well.
"We're trying to bring more family-based stuff into the town...there's only a few things you can do with your family," Eddie Henley said. "This is something that's going to be alcohol-free, smoke-free, just a family environment."
Seven days a week, visitors can pay $10 to practice their drives throughout the day, with races starting at 5 p.m. five days of the week. To participate in races, drivers pay $20 for the first vehicle entry, $10 for the second and $5 for third and on. They can bring their own cars, tuning them up in a large pit area, or rent one for $40, which includes the entry fee.
There are also rental pit spaces for people to store their vehicles and gear, for either $75 or $150 per month.
For people just to come in and watch, it's free.
Henley, who first got involved in RC racing 31 years ago, said he wanted to bring something different in the way of tracks close to home — although there's a carpet track in Clarksville, the next closest is an hour and a half away in Mitchell.
"That was part of the determining factor," he said. "There's nothing within four or five hours that can even come close to comparing to [this.]
"We have racers that race all over the country and all over the world and they've come in and said they've never seen anything like it. These are guys that get paid to race RC cars."
The Henleys said that in the four months since they and a few friends started gutting and remodeling the space, they've probably had about 500 people stop in, just curious about what's going on. About 100 of these have been just in the past few days since they put a sign up outside.
Josh Turner, New Albany council member for district 5, said he hopes the new draw can be a catalyst for revitalization in the once-bustling shopping center.
"I think it's a great opportunity for our district," he said. "The Colonial Manor thing has been a hot topic for years and years and this is a unique opportunity to bring some different business into New Albany.
"I think you get this one centerpiece here [and] if it takes off then you can really build up around it; this could really revitalize."
For Eddie Henley, he's also just excited to have some fun himself.
"It's all about the people that are in it," he said. "Most of the people are nice, down-to-earth people. It's the shirt-off-your-back guys that you'll see doing this type of hobby and it's like hanging out with a whole room of friends."