The hobby of owning and operating remote-controlled cars has boomed during the pandemic, and now cities are adding new racetracks to give people a place to race.
OTSEGO, MN – The COVID pandemic has changed nearly every aspect of our lives.
While many businesses had to close their doors, many Minnesota residents sought comfort in their hobbies. One of those hobbies is gaining popularity due to the pandemic: remote-controlled cars.
“The hobby just exploded,” Dan Magnuson said.
Magnuson owns OPFOR Airsoft and Hobby in Elk River.
His shop sells remote controlled cars that can go as fast as a real car.
“This one here can go up to 100 miles per hour,” Magnuson said while holding a car.
There are quite a few places where you can drive a car that fast in Minnesota, and very few trails designed specifically with remote-controlled cars in mind.
“I had a client one day who had the idea to launch a local track,” Magnuson said. “I think it was a great idea.”
Magnuson and his clients decided to take the news to the other contestants in the community and started building a huge following.
The group submitted their idea to the Otsego Park and Recreation Department to see if the city was interested in building a racetrack within the city limits.
“We thought it was a somewhat unique request,” said Nick Jacobs, temporary director of parks and recreation in Otsego.
The idea of building a racetrack as a city park and settling it between the stadiums and baseball fields in Prairie Park in Otsego seemed odd at first.
“It was a cheap, low-cost option for us to add great fun to our community,” Jacobs said.
“It ended up becoming a fairly simple order and affordable as well.”
The department already had some extra dirt from another project, and Jacobs says the more they looked at the idea, the more they realized how easy it would be to build a racetrack in their garden.
The city agreed to the idea and the Parks and Recreation Department began work.
Workers carried the dirt to Prairie Park and began spreading it, forming the hills and valleys of the track.
Then the workers went to the local hardware store and bought thick plastic tubes and large metal screws to build track barriers.
“In the end, I think the track probably cost the city about $500 or $600,” Jacobs said.
“We used YouTube videos to guide us on how to design and build a track and that’s what we did.”
It only took a few hours to build the track.
When it was completed, Jacobs and his colleagues didn’t know what to expect in terms of interest and participation from the community.
“We posted it on Facebook to get people excited and spread the word,” Jacobs said.
“These RC track groups came together and shared and shared and increased participation. I think close to 50,000 people have been reached by the end of that.”
When the racetrack officially opened after the height of the pandemic, runners from all over Minnesota found a safe outdoor space to enjoy their hobby.
The track has now been open for over a year and that interest hasn’t waned.
“This track is a real blast,” said Jo Sunden.
Sunden and his son Jayden visit the racetrack several times a week.
“It’s just a great place to race and relax,” Jayden said.
The father and son team also has their own YouTube channel called “3X7 Outdoor” where they teach viewers about remote controlled cars.
“We talk about fixing it, racing it, hitting it,” Jayden said. “It’s so much fun.”
Jaydn and Joe are also very involved in introducing new runners to the hobby.
Along with Magnuson, they host open houses and practice sessions every few weeks on the track.
“It’s great for kids, but it’s a hobby for people of all ages,” Magnuson said. “It’s something you can enjoy your whole life and carry with you long into adulthood.”
The track in Otsego is somewhat unique to Minnesota.
There are very few cities that have free city parks where residents can race their RC cars.
The City of Eagan has built a new trail during the pandemic, while Magnuson says Baker City also has a smaller trail that residents can use. Other than those, the paths are few and far between.
Magnuson and Sundeens hope to encourage other cities to consider building their own trails because it is a low-cost way to get more children and their families outside.
“It’s just a great way to get outdoors and get out in the community,” Magnuson said.
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