R/C model track venue, hobby retailer opens

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By Blenda Copeland

Whirr! Vroom! Skid!

Over the ramp! Down the dip! Around the curve!

Up and down! Slide! Halt! 

Inside a massive demonstration space recently, a dozen or more Auburn City Schools teen-aged boys smiled in excitement as they watched a demonstration at what could soon be one of Phenix City’s newest youth and family hang-out spots.

Mason Smith controlled a small truck as it maneuvered a large, indoor remote controlled (R/C) model course – complete with faux green carpet, ramps and obstacles designed especially for the miniature vehicles.

“My dad got me into it when I was about 12 years old,” Smith said of playing with R/C model cars and trucks. “We’d always run them in our back yard.”

Sometimes, they’d set up a little track inside his parents’ store — the Archery Connection – and leave it out the next day. Customers would come in to shop and marveled at the set-up.

In time, the comment was made that it would be really neat if someone would open up a track for R/C vehicles in Phenix City.

Around Christmas time, Smith rediscovered his love of R/C cars.

To the young man who grew up riding on motocross tracks, R/C cars isn’t much different: “This is exactly the same, just R/C,” he said.

With the closure of Hobby Town in Columbus, Ga., the opening of Hobby Town inside Archery Connection in Phenix City offers customers an expanded experience. It’s got a unique venue that doesn’t exist anywhere else locally: three indoor R/C model tracks that customers can, for a fee, play on with their R/C model vehicles.

There’s a Rock Crawling Course; an on-road “Grand Prix” course; and an off-road course. Customers can bring their personally-owned R/C model vehicles to the store, pay a $12 fee, and from 10:30 a.m.-8 p.m. ET Monday through Friday (and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, 1-5 p.m. Sunday), play with their miniatures on the tracks.

Customers must first sign a waiver, which remains valid for one year from the date of signature. The store also offers pit spaces with charging stations and an area where cars can be fixed. The store hosts races on Saturdays for customers who are serious about the sport. Generally, adults participate in these races, although there are some children who sign up too. Racers generally meet at the store around 10 a.m. ET, practice on the track from around 11-11:45 a.m., and start the race about noon. Spectators are welcome and get in free. At a recent race, Smith estimated there were about 50 people watching the races.

For those who are racing more for fun, or who are new to the sport, there also are races on Tuesday evenings, with more of a family-style atmosphere. The Tuesday night races generally attract a crowd of about 20 participants. They meet at the store generally by 6 p.m. ET for races that may last about two hours or a little longer. The entry fee for the Tuesday night races is $10 per participant. The race track can accommodate about 10 to 12 R/C vehicles at a time. The races are divided into different sessions, and classified by vehicle types. The race track also has a transponder system, similar to what NASCAR races use. “We put a little sensor on your (vehicle) that tells your lap time, […] or, this was your fastest lap […]” Smith explained.

Anyone interested in buying or learning how to operate R/C model vehicles is invited to stop by the store. As a small-town specialty vendor, Hobby Town’s (as well as Archery Connection’s) owners pride themselves on high quality customer service. They’re always willing to show customers how their purchases work and to give mini-tutorials. “We don’t charge you for any of that,” Smith said.

While buying R/C models for a child is exciting, and there’s no particular age recommendation, Smith reminds parents and other adults to remember to consider the child’s ability levels, which vary with each child, before making a purchase.

While customers browse the supplies at Hobby Town, they may also wish to peruse the hunting and archery supplies on the Archery Connection side of the store, owned by Smith’s parents, Janice and Steve Smith.

Archery Connection also offers an active place for climate-controlled fun. The store offers 35 indoor archery lanes that individuals can rent for less than $25. Bows, arrows, range time and instruction (for first timers) is included in the rental price. The indoor range is not just for experts; it’s intended for everyone, including beginners. Archery Connection also offers an extensive range of hunters’ and archers’ products.

For information about hosting a birthday party, call the store at (334) 480-9997.

Archery Connection (and Hobby Town) are located at 3022 Lakewood Drive, Phenix City. Find them at Facebook.com/archeryconnection.