YUBA CITY, Calif. (KTXL) — For 12-year-old Austin Allsup and his little sister Molly, the track at Millennium Kart Racing is their number-one happy place.
“I got my fastest time in here,” Austin said. “We just have fun.”
It continues to be that happy place for them and several other families in Yuba City during an ongoing pandemic.
“There’s not a lot of things open right now for kids to do but this still would be our number-one place to come, even if everything was open,” Amy Allsup said.
The man giving these speed racers the green light is Millennium Kart owner John Buckland.
“There are families that come in here on a regular basis that, really, we enjoy,” Buckland told FOX40. “They, over time, have become family.”
Since its start in December of 2015, a dilapidated warehouse-turned-indoor go-kart facility has seen hundreds of racers — both young and old — winding their way through 1,100-square-feet of racetrack.
But fun times have hit a major roadblock in the pandemic.
“We had to change many of the things that we were doing here. We would always sanitize our helmets, we would always sanitize and clean the karts but we had to go into a more thorough aspect of that,” Buckland said.
Despite Buckland’s efforts to start limiting hours, supply personal protective equipment and allow only members, Millennium was met with a Yuba-Sutter Public Health directive in March of last year on top of a statewide stay-at-home order, prohibiting all public and private gatherings, while restricting recreational and non-essential businesses.
“We were closed for about 60 days total and then started to try to reopen on a very limited basis with just individuals that we knew,” he said.
Buckland’s business falls within a certain category under the state’s COVID-19 guidelines.
Currently, indoor racetracks are not supposed to be open, but, Buckland says, he has worked with county health officials and supervisors to stay open.
Buckland claims he has received funding – around $20,000 — for mitigating measures. He has installed a state-of-the-art air filtration system and has made other modifications.
So far, Buckland says no cases have been tied to his business.
And, with a long-term lease, and the future of his business on the line, he knows his decision comes with scrutiny and apprehension.
“The state of California has only threatened to come and take a look. We’ve invited them here,” Buckland “We didn’t want to be that point where someone would look and say, ‘My parent or my grandparents became severely ill or died because of a business like this.’ I would’ve shut it down had that ever occurred or even been close to occurring.”
As other family entertainment centers put the breaks on their operations, Millennium is providing what Buckland says is a positive outlet for those like Austin and Molly.
“It’s a place for them, it’s a sense of family, it’s a social component that has been missing so much during the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. “It’s a place where youth and parents can come in. They share a common bond while they’re in here.”