Jacksonville's Autobahn Indoor Speedway Reopens, Begins Rehiring Staff

May 22, 2020

When COVID-19 hit, it slammed the brakes on Jacksonville’s Autobahn Indoor Speedway & Events, resulting in 62 layoffs. But now the Southside entertainment complex is revving back up.

Although Autobahn is limited to 50% capacity under state restrictions, it has an easier time dealing with that cap than some businesses.

“So even at 50% capacity, we could have, you know, 400 people in that building. We've actually dropped it down even lower, and we're saying we're not going to have any more than 25% of our capacity in the building at any one time,” said Autobahn Director of Operations Donald Wagner.

The Speedway's 80,000-square-foot warehouse naturally lends itself to spreading people out.

Related: Local, State, And National Coronavirus Coverage

Sanitization has always been a big part of the business, according to Wagner. Even before COVID-19 hit, helmets – for example – were being sanitized before each go-cart run.

Autobahn has upped its sanitation game as it heads into its first holiday weekend since reopening, with a stronger, COVID-19-approved cleaner.

“We have team members sanitizing, you know, all flat surfaces, any customer-touchable surface, every hour – more, if needed,” said Wagner. Wearing face masks is mandatory for employees and customers. Skipping a mask is “non-negotiable,” said Wagner, who helped put together this video on his company's safety precautions:

While employment at Autobahn isn’t back to pre-pandemic levels, it is gradually ramping back up.

“The first few people we brought back were our salaried assistant managers and then we have a couple of people underneath that had some availability and wanted to come back to work," he said.

Although he is hoping customers return quickly, uncertainty remains.

“The last thing we want to do is bring too many people back and, you know, a couple of weeks from now, demand not being there - and having to kick them back to unemployment," he said.

Autobahn is back operating at regular hours and is accepting walk-ins.

As a thank you to everyone who's been working during the COVID-19 shutdown to provide essential services, Autobahn is inviting essential workers to nominate their colleagues for one of 10 free parties for the winner and nine coworkers. The prize includes electric go-cart racing and axe throwing.

More information about Autobahn and the giveaway is on the entertainment complex’s website.

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at bbortzfield@wjct.org or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.