TAMPA ― Grand Prix Tampa, the 15-acre disco-era entertainment campus that includes two go-kart tracks, an arcade, batting cages and two of Hillsborough County’s few miniature golf courses, has closed.
“We regret to inform you that Grand Prix Tampa is permanently closed,” their Facebook page said on Monday morning.
Property owners Christian and Carlos Yepes, who operate Belleair Development Group in Pinellas Park, want to erect 11 three-story apartment buildings with 298 units on the property at 14320 N. Nebraska Ave., which currently includes a globe-shaped metallic rope climbing course that can be seen from I-275 near the northbound Bearss Avenue exit.
Carlos Yepes said they will auction the miniature golf pieces and other pieces of Grand Prix Tampa at the site at 9 a.m. on Aug. 9.
“This is sad,” said David Alfonso, 40, while golfing its 18-hole courses with his two young sons on Sunday night before the venue closed for good at 8 p.m. “My parents used to take me here to celebrate good report cards. I’ve had birthday parties for both my kids here. This place has been here forever.”
Well, since 1978.
It opened that year as Malibu Grand Prix, one of around 30 such entertainment campuses operated nationwide by Warner Communications, then the parent company for Warner Bros., according to Tampa Bay Times archives.
“The dream-peddling conglomerate has plenty of experience selling the celluloid version of Hollywood fantasy,” a 1979 Tampa Tribune article reported. “Now it puts the same Walter Mitties who rush to see Steve McQueen pilot blood-red Ferraris through Monte Carlo right into the driver’s seat themselves.”
By 2005, the venue was rundown, according to the Tampa Tribune, but a new ownership group renamed it Grand Prix Tampa and refurbished the campus by purchasing a fleet of 50 faster cars, repairing the pitching machines and installing 100 new video games.
In December, Christian and Carlos Yepes purchased the property for $8.2 million, according to the Hillsborough Property Appraiser’s online records.
Among Belleair Development Group’s completed projects, according to their website, are the Pinellas County Tax Collector in St. Petersburg and a Hilton Home2Suites in Largo.
The closure was mourned on the “Tampa!!! Born and raised and I remember when ...” Facebook page
“So many things are going away,” Lori Le Gaudiet wrote.
“My buddies and I spent many a Friday night there in high school” in the early 1980s, Kenn Tomasch posted.
Alfonso wondered where he will take his children miniature golfing now.
“Is there anywhere left around here?” he said.
Read inspiring stories about ordinary lives
Subscribe to our free How They Lived newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
On the Tampa side of the bridge, an online search found Ace Golf in Riverview and Plantation Palms Golf Club in Land O’Lakes. Wesley Chapel’s Grove Mini Golf will open in around 90 days, owner Andrew Schachter said.
He too was shocked to learn of Grand Prix Tampa closing.
“Wow,” Schachter said. “They’ve been there forever.”