Fairfield Daily Republic: June 27th, 2010

RACING AHEAD: NEW LIFE LOOMS ON THE HORIZON FOR CIRCUIT CITY SITE

By Ben Antonius

Fairfield  storefront

Driven Raceway soon in Fairfield

A go-kart race track could fill the spot of departed retailer Circuit City, under a new plan.

Driven Raceway, which already operates one track in Rohnert Park in Sonoma County, has received initial permits to convert the former electronics store, which closed in 2008. Current plans call for construction to start in early July and take about three months, leaving a grand opening somewhere in “late fall, early winter,” Chief Executive Matt Stearn said.

“We are pretty optimistic,” he said. “We have done it before, we have a good idea of what is going on.”

Driven Raceway uses carts with electric motors on an indoor track. Stearn said closed retail stores seem to work well -- their Rohnert Park track replaced a Linens ’n Things store -- because they provide large indoor spaces and are typically located in areas that already have commercial traffic.

Company officials hope to install private rooms for birthday parties and corporate events, said Chief Operating Officer Rod Towery. It will also have a snack bar, albeit one that is scaleddown from what they currently operate. The Circuit City site is slightly smaller than their existing facility, and the Gateway Plaza shopping center is also rich with eating establishments.

If the project happens, Driven Raceway would fill one of the major retail vacancies that have plagued Fairfield through the recession.

The interest is a sign that the economy is recovering, Economic Development Director Curt Johnston said during an early June interview. He said he believes it has taken as long as it has because companies interested in expanding during a recession concentrated on larger markets first.

“We are a smaller market and the companies that have been occupying space are first responding to the opportunities in the larger markets,” he said.

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