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Quite a track record

Raceway to Fun owners Elaine and Richard Oftedahl are a daily presence at the entertainment center. (Bulletin photo by Patricia Drey Busse)

From 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. every summer day you'll find, Richard and Elaine Oftedahl in the same place they've been 25 summers before -- Raceway to Fun in Newport.

"Toward the end of the season the hours get to you," Elaine said. But you get the winters off, she added.

While this year's season is well underway, it's been a slow start due to the cold weather, Richard said.

"It's really hurting us big time," Richard said.

The couple started the business in 1982 with a go-cart track on land rented from Marathon Petroleum Co., Elaine said. They eventually bought the land and over the years added a driving range, mini-golf course, batting cages and arcade games.

Go-carts remain their most popular attraction, though, and fixing the carts occupies the biggest chunk of Richard's time, he said.

"It's constant repair all the time," he said.

Owning a go-cart track had always been Richard's dream, and the Oftedahls say they've never regretted getting into the business.

That's not to say they don't have their frustrations, though.

After the Highway 61 project made it tougher to get to Raceway to Fun, they lost about half their business, Richard said.

Plus, they just got news that their property taxes will shoot up from $28,000 to $64,000, they said.

Since the highway project started, they've had the property up for sale. They had a developer interested in buying the property for an office warehouse complex about three years ago, but the buyer pulled out, Richard said.

Despite their uncertain future, the Oftedahls are still investing in the business. They've got a few late night and early morning television commercials running, and they bought $5,000 worth of new golf balls for the driving range.

As for the near future, Richard's looking ahead to the Fourth of July, where he'll put out an annual attraction on the driving range -- three junk cars painted red, white and blue waiting to have their windows knocked out by a well-aimed golf ball.