Congress loves to spend taxpayer dollars. That's part of the reason why the federal debt is nearly $16 trillion. Since 2001, more than two billion of those dollars have gone into renovations to the controversial Guantanamo Bay military base in Cuba.
One of those renovations was a go-kart track for the troops that opened in 2006. The price tag? A cool $400,000.
Much of the public knows about the controversial military prison that is on the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, but there is much more there than just holding cells. Guantanamo has been a fully fledged military base for ages, with soldiers living there full time.
After the attacks of 9/11, money started pouring into Guantanamo from the government. $249,000 was spent on a volleyball court, $3.5 million on a bunch of playgrounds, $683,000 to renovate a Starbucks, and $296,000 to build a go kart track. The Guantanamo Bay Gazette, the paper of the naval base, estimates the cost of the track to be $400,000. (UPDATE: Jesse, a reader formerly based at Guantanamo, points out that much of the funding for the track came from base stores and fundraisers.)
The track opened in summer 2006 to provide the troops with some entertainment. CAPT Mark Leary, Guantanamo's Commanding Officer cut the ribbon and said "this is just one more step in improving quality of life for the people here in Guantanamo Bay."
The track was equipped with the same sort of rental karts you'd see at any podunk rental track. Open Thursday to Sunday from 5PM until 10PM, $3 gets the troops a five minute ride on the go kart track. That means that the $400,000 cost would be fully repaid in just 133,334 rides.
It sounds like the troops were thankful and enjoyed it when it opened. Lt. Robert Thompson said "You really have to grip the wheel hard. It's not as easy as it looks." Another rider only said "It was fun."
Those rave reviews didn't translate into huge business. As of 2010, the go kart track was supposedly basically unused, as were a majority of the other improvements that were made to the base.
This was probably a case of people saying "yeah, we'd definitely use a go kart track." Then they went once, said "that was cool" and "we'll be back," and then they never returned.
That's a shame. I am a bit of a fiscal hawk, but I'm ok with spending this money. In the grand scheme of things, a $400,000 (or $296,000, depending on who you ask) investment to try and help the troops relax and feel normal isn't a bad thing at all. Plus they were spending that money on motorsports. That's pretty ok in my book.
Too bad it wasn't as popular as they hoped, maybe this piece will inspire them to use it again.