Do R/C Tracks Make Money? – A Look In The Cash Tin

I was down at my local outdoor off road track last weekend, speaking with a few of the other drivers. We were on the subject of race fees and a couple of the guys were saying how expensive they are. The subject quickly moved onto how much money the tracks make. I haven’t personally owned a race track, however I did run a bashing and drifting club.

I have had a couple small businesses over the years and worked at the Prince’s Trust as a enterprise executive for new businesses. It also helps knowing a few track owners well enough to get an idea of takings and running costs.

Do R/C Tracks Make Money – Yes they make money, an R/C club is a business. Most tracks turnover just enough money to keep them running. There are start-up and running costs involved which many drivers do not take into account.

R/C tracks come in all sorts of shapes & sizes, cater for different classes and have varying numbers of members. We need to look at R/C tracks like businesses in order to fully understand how much money they make. For a business to make “profit” – the total amount of income must be greater than the total amount of outgoing costs. This is much easier to explain when selling physical goods. If you purchase a pen for $0.50 and sell it for $2 you have made a profit of $1.50.

The following are purely examples based on experience, through talking with track owners and researching cost of materials. I will not mention any track names, unless they are happy for me to do so.

Off-road Outdoor Track Example.

For this example lets go with a European style track which uses Artificial Turf as the surface. Unfortunately this track is out in the middle of nowhere and mains electricity is not an option, a generator will be the alternative. We will have a small outdoor unit for race control, inside the computer, printer, timing decoder, score board and PA system.

The drivers stand will be positioned to over looks the entire track. The stand will need a roof for when the weather is bad. At the front we have a pitting area. On the back we have a car cleaning area with a compressor.

We estimate this track to take 4 weeks to build. For 1 of the 4 weeks we need to hire a digger to build the jumps and move artificial turf around it weighs approximately 2 tones per roll! (filled with sand). Build a following through social media, means we are able to ask for help to build the track from potential members.

Start-up costs (estimate):

  • Land (2 acres) = $500 deposit, then $500 per month (state dependent).
  • Mini Excavator 1 week = $700
  • Artificial Turf = $15,000 (10,000 square foot coverage, artificial turf is very expensive! $1-2 per square foot)
  • Piping = $650 (Approx 12,000 feet, 4″ corrugated drain tile is almost half the price of 6″)
  • 40 foot container = $2,500 (used)
  • MyLaps RC4 Decoder Box  = $3,000
  • Timing Loop = $190
  • Monitor = $40 second hand
  • Computer = $100 (You won’t need anything special, just used for timing equipment)
  • Printer = $50
  • Generator = $500 (anything 4,000 watts and above is recommended)
  • Compressor (optional) = $80 (2 gallon compressor will be enough something like a Campbell Hausfeld)
  • PA system = $90 (something like the Pyle KTPMSA20HM from amazon would be fine to start with.)
  • Materials = $1800 (drivers stand, roof, stairs and outdoor wooden unit)
  • Security (heavy duty padlocks) =$320 – you could spend less but I trust the Squire SS65 to secure my motorbike.
  • Dumpster Rental (6 yard) =$600
  • Tools (shovels, gloves, drills, screw drivers etc) = $250

Total = $26,370

Sourcing items second hand would reduce the costs significantly, items like artificial turf and piping. Artificial turf needs to be sand filled. This reduces wear and tear and adds weight to keep the turf in place. Its worth having a contingency plan to accommodate unexpected costs like this. The other benefit of sourcing artificial turf second hand is it will already be sand filled.

Now the track is built, we need to market to build up a list of potential members. Opening times are every weekend Saturday & Sunday for practice 3 weeks of the month. We will run a club series for winter and summer, on the 1st Sunday of each month. Building a relationship with other tracks and race organizers will help with promotion.

Artificial turf wears out with heavy use small holes appear. The piping degrades over time too, and leaks could appear in the roof. Little areas like these should hopefully be covered by a maintenance budget which we will save each month.

Estimated monthly running costs:

  • Rent =$500 (will vary depending on state and type of land).
  • Gas for generator = $80
  • Maintenance budget = $100
  • Marketing = $80 (leaflets, social media campaigns etc)
  • Trophy/plaques for winners = $30
  • Timing software = $29.99
  • Other costs = $50 (transport to track, paper, printer ink etc)

Total =$869.99

Estimated monthly income:

  • 6 non-members attending 7 practice days ($12 each) = $504
  • 5 members attending 7 practice days ($10 each) = $350
  • 2 new membership  subscriptions ($40 each) = $80
  • 1 race series 40 participants ($12 each) = $480

Total = $1,414

Profit – $544.01

These figures are just examples, profit would largely depend on rent fees and the amount of members we have attending. We spent $26,370 to build the track at the current profit margins it would take 4 years to break even.

We could increase profit by hosting more events and looking for additional income streams.

On-road Track Example.

This time we are going to look at the rough costs of building an indoor track. To save money as much as possible, we are going to build this track in a portable way. The idea being that it can be laid down and taken away each race night. This will keep the cost of rent down and also means it is easy for us to change the track design.

This venue will be in a large sports hall, located in a University or School. The track on one side of the hall and the pitting area on the other. We will have a small stage or bench area for the drivers stand. The track surface will be carpet (Fastrak 2) and will cater for on-road and off road cars. This time electricity is included in the rent, we also have use of storage for the carpet and track materials.

Tables are provided by the venue for the pitting area, and parking is available on-site. The plan is to run events every Saturday from 9am till 6pm and have at least 1 race event per month.

Start-up costs (estimate):

  • Building rent = $1,440 ($40 per hour, 36 hours a month.)
  • Carpet = $9,520 (7 rolls 100ft x 12ft each. This is carpet specifically designed for race tracks, you could source Oztie carpet locally which may be cheaper, or build a smaller track.)
  • Piping for edges = $2,649.99 (It is possible to build this yourself from PVC piping, this estimate is from Team CRC. A package deal which includes a range of corners and straight pieces.)
  • MyLaps RC4 Decoder Box = $3,000
  • Timing Loop = $190
  • Monitor = $40 (used)
  • Computer = $100
  • Printer = $50
  • PA system = $90 (something like the Pyle KTPMSA20HM from amazon would be fine to start with.)

Total = $17,079

There are areas we could save money, the carpet and the piping. A word of warning cheap carpet or domestic carpet is not really fit for the a race track surface. It wears out quicker and creates more fluff. This gets tangled up in the cars wheels and drive train. As for piping you could take the DIY option and use PVC piping. It will be harder to calculate the costs, with all the parts needed.

Estimated monthly running costs:

  • Rent =$1,440
  • Maintenance budget = $50
  • Trophy/plaques for winners = $30
  • Other costs (transport to track, paper, printer ink etc) = $50

Total = $1,570

Estimated monthly income:

  • 16 non-members attending 3 practice days ($12 each) = $576
  • 25 members attending 3 practice days ($10 each) = $750
  • 4 new membership  subscriptions ($40 each) = $160
  • 1 race series 50 participants ($12 each) = $600

Total =$2,086

Profit =$516

This track cost $17,079 to build, it will take just under 3 years to break even, based on the above projections. Every month after this is profit. To break-even faster, we could use more marketing and collaborate with other tracks. Catering for both off-road and on-road electric cars, increases our membership potential. This i simple to do, using removable ramps which can be put down and taken away.

Income Opportunities.

The main income stream is from members attending race events and practice days. You will often find that tracks will have a membership program lets say $40 for the year. Once a member has paid the membership fee they will get a discount on race and practice fees. With memberships you get more money up front, this can help with maintenance costs and builds loyalty with members.

There are some other opportunities track owners can take to increase revenue:

  • Banner placement – It is often free to place banners at tracks, however you could leverage this as an income opportunity. Banners are effectively advertising. You could charge a small amount lets say $5, and charge more for prime locations like behind the presentation stand or in the pits area.
  • Tutorials – I have noticed some professional drivers doing this, charging a group of people to learn the skills of racing. You could organize beginner lessons or more advanced ones. Perhaps share some of the income to bring in some top level drivers.
  • Charity events – This does not directly increase your income. However when you organize an event to raise money for charity it often interests more people. This in turn brings more potential members to your track. It also demonstrates you are supporting your local community.
  • Car rentals – You could rent out cars, or equipment to members and non members. This should work well for beginners, letting them get a feel for driving around a track. If the risk of damages seems too high, then you could rent out equipment such as batteries, ESC’s etc.
  • Food & Drink – A quick solution to increase income. Be sure to check your local food & hygiene laws. Or arrange for a food van to operate from your track and take a small percentage of the profits.
  • Commission on local provisions – The idea is to speak with local hotels and restaurants, present possible businesses to them from referrals when you have a race weekend. For each person you refer to them, in return they give you a small percentage. Like a finders fee. This will work better with independent small businesses.
  • Raffle – When the prizes are good raffles are very effective.

Member Incentives.

Members enjoy discounts, deals and a feeling like they belong to something. Keeping things interesting encourages loyalty and return customers. Here are some incentives which should help retain members.

  • Track changes – If you incorporate a design into your track that allows you to change things up. It will keep it fresh and exciting. Use a social media group to let drivers vote on the next design, this will keep engagement levels up.
  • Discounts for members – Very common to get discounts on race fees, but what about discount on food & drink for members?
  • On-site car cleaning facilities – I have two off road tracks local to me, I visit one more frequently than the other. The reason is simple the free use of a compressor.
  • On-site electricity – If you can provide drivers with the ability to use mains electricity, its another feature you can offer. If you run a generator, then it may be wise to think of the costs involved.
  • Live timing – More tracks should have live timing available. It’s inexpensive really, buy a splitter, attach a couple of monitors to your computer and your in business. You don’t need expensive timing boards or wireless software. It makes sense to put the monitors in a waterproof enclosure though!

Conclusion.

As you can see from the examples this isn’t the type of business to make you a millionaire. You can look at it from an entrepreneurial point of view, incorporating lots of different income streams. However it’s still a passion business, track owners pour in countless hours of work which is really difficult to put a price on. Look at the cost of the cars & equipment, then look at race fees. Lets be honest they are fairly cheap in comparison.

Factor in the cost to build and run a track, you can quickly see owners are not in it for the money. Support your local track as much as you can, hobby shops have faded away due to on-line retail. Lets keep the tracks going!

If you were reading this article because you want to build your own track, send me an email or drop a comment below. I will promote you as much as I can. I wish you all the best!

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Comments

  1. Hi my name is David, I live in northern Ireland
    I have been working in a factory for the last 20 years and with redundancy looming I have a vision of starting my own rc track. My plan is to purchase all the cars and rent them. This way everyone would be racing the same car. I would like to grow this into multi circuits on site. I would like to know if you think this would make sense.

    1. Author

      Hi David,

      Thank your for commenting. – This is an interesting idea, I would say this is more suited towards people who are new to the racing side of RC. Anyone who has been involved in racing will not be so keen on not using their own equipment.

      You could try this with schools or colleges. The most important part with regards to any business idea, is to do you research. Go out and try it, when you have things in place let me know and I will create an article for you.

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