Business Resources - Accessibility - July 2018

OVERDRIVE RACEWAY

Driven by Purpose

Colorado FEC features adaptive go-karts for guests with disabilities

by Mike Bederka

Jim Mundle wants Overdrive Raceway to be a vehicle for good.

His family entertainment center (FEC) in Colorado Springs, Colorado, features four special electric go-karts among the fleet. They ride like any other traditional high-speed racer, with one key difference: instead of operating the gas and brake pedals with their feet, guests control the two functions using levers on the steering wheel. The gas is on the right side and the brake on the left. 

The adaptive go-karts at Overdrive Raceway serve guests with special needs, primarily amputees and paraplegics. Driven by a purpose, Mundle can relate to many paraplegics and understands why they would want to participate in something that may have been an elusive experience. He’s a double amputee himself, losing both legs to methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in his feet.

“Having these go-karts is probably the most rewarding thing that I’ve ever done,” says the 47-year-old FEC owner, the joy and pride emanating from his voice.

OVERDRIVE RACEWAY

Inclusivity

Mundle lived with the excruciating infections for years, enduring a constant flood of antibiotics, five surgeries, and fevers virtually every day. When his condition worsened, he had no choice but to undergo surgery to remove his left leg in 2014, followed by the right leg in 2015. 

Despite the initial shock of losing his limbs, Mundle’s outlook remained more positive than ever, thanks in large part to the unwavering support of his wife, Jennifer.

“I don’t think about what I can’t do—I look at what I can do,” says the father of four. “Everybody wants their life before they’re an amputee, but that’s not possible. You need a new life, and it’s all about what attitude you have toward it.”

Now free of the daily suffering from the vicious MRSA, Mundle focused on learning how to walk with his new prosthetics—a skill he mastered fairly quickly. He now walks several miles a day with ease: “The only difference in my life is it might take me five more minutes to take a shower.”

Shortly after he lost his second leg, and a few months before the planned July 2016 opening of Overdrive Raceway, Mundle visited an attraction during a family vacation. The getaway could have turned sour, but instead, got Mundle thinking after a roller coaster operator explained why he couldn’t safely experience the ride without having at least one functioning leg. A follow-up visit to guest relations provided an opportunity for education and greater insight into ride dynamics, with a representative citing rules set by the ride manufacturer. Mundle said the park offered the family front-of-the-line passes, yet he turned the disappointment into innovation. Almost immediately, Mundle began thinking about his soon-to-open, 80,000-square-foot indoor FEC.

He wanted his attraction to be as inclusive as possible, in particular because of the facility’s close proximity to three military bases, each with many soldiers with disabilities.

He did some research and discovered an Italian manufacturer with adaptive go-karts. He made the somewhat-sizable investment and started running them just a few weeks after the facility’s grand opening. 

“I knew I wouldn’t make money on them,” Mundle explains. “That wasn’t what I was looking for. I want to offer something that no one else is providing. Being part of this military community, it’s important to be able to cater to these people. They’re sometimes in tears after they go for a ride—and I get it.”

A Blessing

Many of these veterans confide in Mundle how they often consider themselves hermits, sheepish about participating in activities with their able-bodied friends and families.

“Now, they can compete against them on the go-karts,” he says. “They just love it, and while they may look at it as a blessing, so do I. I get to see this reaction, their appreciation.”

Most guests comfortable driving with hand controls on a regular vehicle have few issues doing the same on the adaptive go-karts, which Mundle stresses “aren’t toys” and can reach 45 mph.

Outside of the handle controls, which require just minor routine maintenance, the go-karts still have all the usual features, including (inoperative) pedals. For paraplegic guests, ride operators use fabric fasteners to strap their legs into the vehicle, and staff will assist any customer who needs help transferring between a wheelchair and the go-kart and vice versa. Overdrive Raceway allows customers to put their wheelchairs’ padding on the plastic go-kart seat for added comfort.

“As long as they have use of their hands, they can ride,” Mundle says. 

For this reason, staff have to turn away people on occasion, but they do their best to accommodate them in other ways. Employees will suggest the FEC’s unique “Lamborghini Driving Experience,” where they get a thrilling spin in a sports car around town.

“If we can’t do one thing,” he says, “we try to fill it up with another.”

OVERDRIVE RACEWAY

Guests control an adaptive go-kart's acceleration and brakes using levers on the steering wheel. (Credit: Overdrive Raceway)

A Call to Others

With Mundle’s kind spirit leading the way, business for the adaptive go-karts has quadrupled since opening in 2016, and he expects that pace to continue. Besides reaching out to the area military bases, the FEC works closely with the Wounded Warrior Project, U.S. Paralympics, and local sled-hockey teams. Strong word of mouth through the disabilities community also has strengthened interest in the facility. 

“It’s a very special thing to see somebody’s face when they realize they can race for the first time,” Mundle says. “They can’t believe we have these go-karts. They want the adrenaline, and the fact that we can provide it is hugely exciting for me.”

Mundle hopes others will follow his lead, as he doesn’t know of many other FECs that dedicate themselves to serving the disabled population as much as Overdrive Raceway.

“It’s rewarding for me, and it will be rewarding for them, as well,” he urges. “If you can bless others, you will be blessed in return. It can’t always be about making money. We have a responsibility to the community.”

An FEC that Serves All

Colorado’s Overdrive Raceway strives to help guests with varying disabilities. “We want to be all-inclusive, as long as it’s safe,” says owner Jim Mundle. “My employees and I are here to serve.”

One audience that frequently visits includes guests on the autism spectrum and their families, especially since the FEC will make special accommodations.

“We’re usually a loud center, so we’ll open early an hour or two for them,” Mundle notes. “We turn off the lights and music. This creates a calmer environment and lets these kids focus on the task at hand and not have all the stimulation from other things.”

The FEC also allows parents to walk next to their children on the track as their son or daughter ride in the traditional electric go-kart, but with its speed capped at a snail’s pace. Trained staff members stay close by to give some pointers, share encouraging words, and make sure everyone is safe and comfortable.

“Our No. 1 concern is safety,” Mundle says. “If it’s safe, we’ll give them every opportunity to race go-karts.”