There are two people in the world, and only two, who can talk more than me.
The first is my good friend Peter MacLaurin, who owns a tree farm near Morin Heights in the Quebec Laurentians. Peter never stops. One time, years ago, when my mother, the late Grace Dorothy McDonald, fell and broke her wrist at Expo 67, Peter decided to help her feel better by telling her his life’s story. She listened for a while, but then she got a headache and told him to leave her alone. The exact 10 words she used were: “Peter, if you don’t mind, will you please SHUT UP.”
The other is the racing driver, Alexandre Tagliani, better known as Alex, or Tag, who races in the Pinty’s NASCAR Canada stock car series following a lengthy career primarily in IndyCar racing. I can ask him a question and he can start answering and I can put down the phone and go outside, smoke a cigarette, and come back in 10 minutes and pick up the phone and he’ll still be talking.
Our most recent conversation, er, monologue, took place a few weeks ago when he called me to talk about his latest project, a unique family entertainment centre just off Highway 15 north of Montreal in the revamped Plaza Saint-Therese featuring the first multi-level electric karting track in Canada.
Tagliani and partners are spending $18-million on the TAG E-karting & Amusement Centre that will open in the spring and feature nine activities including a combination of three karting tracks, a laser tag game area, six axe-throwing lanes, six bowling lanes, a Triotech 7D interactive cinema, interactive trampolines, a multi-sensory virtual reality experience, numerous state-of-the-art arcades and a climbing wall — all under one roof.
“We have created a monster,” Tagliani said, laughing, when I asked him how the project was going. “But we’re pretty excited.
Everything is on schedule and we should be able to start testing everything, have some soft launches in early April and be up and running by late April.”
Tagliani started his career in karting, which led to Formula Atlantic, the Champ Car World Series and finally Indy cars, and he’s hoping the 65.000-square-foot facility will eventually develop talents who will go on to be provincial karting champions and maybe even world champs.
There will be three tracks on three levels – one for adults, one for children and a super track combining the two with a length of 0.5 km—and they will feature a total of six course choices, each of which can be completed clockwise or counter-clockwise. Imported from Italy, the go-karts are 100 per cent electric, silent, non-polluting, and odourless (zero emissions), available in a wide range of sizes.
They are the world’s most sophisticated electric models and are available for the first time in North America. They will feature a digital steering wheel, bumper-integrated sensors for safety, and a Boost button for accelerated passing.
“The karts we’ll be using are among the most sophisticated in the world,” Tagliani said. “Using artificial intelligence, the system knows where each kart is on the circuit at all times. So if a kart driver spins in, say, Turn 9 and you are on it going through Turn 1, your kart will stay running at speed and when you get near the Turn 9 sector, if the kart that spun is still there, your kart will slow down and maybe even stop automatically. So it’s very safe.”
Tagliani said it should get your adrenaline running, however.
“We have an eight-and-a-half-foot drop at one corner and another eight-and-a-half-drop at another and that takes you down two stories to the ground level. That’s the first circuit in the world that has this concept.”
Tagliani told me that he’s had this dream for 20 years. “Nothing is worse for a kid who’s really into it and then here comes the winter and he has to stop. The kart goes in the garage and all you can do is sit in it and look at it. Karting was so big in my career and I had this dream and now it’s a reality.”
Tag, who was inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame in 2015, has not sold his name to this project. He’s an investor along with five Quebec businesspeople including Richard Scofield, who’s president of the St-Hubert Group, one of Tag’s Pinty’s series sponsors.
When up and running the amusement centre will employ 75 to 100 people. Dedicated to becoming a destination of choice for family outings as well as for special and corporate events that foster team spirit, the TAG-E karting centre will have two dining areas, including a bar-restaurant.
And if this proves to be successful in Quebec, are there plans to build and operate similar facilities elsewhere in Canada?
“Of course,” said the non-stop talker. “Toronto would look pretty good, wouldn’t it?”
Norris McDonald / Special to Wheels.