MIDDLETOWN, Ohio — Those in the region looking for entertainment opportunities, especially for youth, may have another option in Middletown.
The owners of the Towne Mall Galleria, located at Exit 32 off I-75, have signed a contract with an electric go-kart company to bring indoor racing to the complex. According to the Hamilton Journal-News, Middletown City Manager Jim Palenick made the announcement Thursday morning during the inaugural Economic Development breakfast held at the Middletown Regional Airport.
K1 Speed indoor go-kart racing has 55 locations worldwide and George Ragheb, the California-based investor who owns the mall, has signed a 40-mile exclusive contract, Palenick said.
Start-up costs range from $1.8 million to $3 million and potential annual revenue is between $2 million to $4 million, according to K1 Speed’s web site.
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Founded in 2003, K1 Speed offers highly-advanced and environmentally-friendly electric go-karts, authentic racing memorabilia, a Paddock Lounge café, private meeting rooms and game areas. It’s unclear when K1 Speed will open.
Ragheb, who attended the economic development meeting, said he has worked closely with Middletown’s city staff, the Warren County Port Authority and his business partners on the redevelopment of the 44-year-old mall.
He called that group “the best management team” he has worked with.
When asked about the mall’s location in the East End and what role that may play in the success of the redevelopment plan, Ragheb said location is important, but other key factors include partnerships and investments.
“We believe in it,” he said of the mall property. “In five years, it will be totally different.”
Palenick estimated the redevelopment of the mall property at $100 million and once completed will rival Liberty Center in Liberty Twp. and Austin Landing in Miami Twp.
“One of the most active, vibrant destinations” in the region is how Palenick described the project. “Good things are happening. It’s just coming together.”
Martin Russell, executive director of the Warren County Port Authority, said the concept has the potential to draw several hundred thousand visitors annually. Warren County is “very interested” in the project because the mall is positioned at the city’s doorstep and in the “heart of Southwest Ohio.”
Palenick said Warren County, which calls itself “Ohio’s Largest Playground,” has a rich history of developing and promoting tourism. The mall property will be “another arrow in the quiver” for the county, he said.
Earlier this year at a Middletown City Council meeting, representatives from RINKA, a Milwaukee-based company hired by the city, talked about what the mall could become and how it could serve the needs of thousands of visitors.
At the time, Palenick said the next step would be to find developers who could build the housing and indoor recreation/entertainment sections of the project. He envisions 200 to 300 apartments, a hockey rink that would attract youth tournaments and complement Spooky Nook in Hamilton.
“This plan is buildable today,” Steve Morales, a partner with RINKA, told council members.
He would like to see the mall opened up and include a Gateway Plaza on one end and a North Plaza on the opposite end. There would be green space throughout the plaza with areas for trees, splash pads, entertainment venues and dining options, he said.
Morales said the mall has the potential to be “a true destination.”