Forgotten Houston for Kids: Malibu Grand Prix
Putting anyone behind the wheel of a speeding car seems almost asinine if you examine it from a completely clinical standpoint. Not only are you hurtling along the road in a tin can surrounded by unpredictable strangers in their own speeding tin cans, but you aren't just going in a straight line, you're weaving and turning and tempting fate at every moment. So, putting children behind the wheel, making the car much smaller and, therefore, much less sturdy, and letting them speed around a poorly maintained track with other kids can't possibly be legal, right?
In fact, it was legal and encouraged. Welcome to Malibu Grand Prix!
The corporate high-end go-kart raceways were located throughout the Southwest including Houston and gave kids the rides of their lives.
Name: Malibu Grand Prix Description: Fancy Go-Kart Race Track Location: Southwest Freeway and 610 at I-10 near Castle Golf and Games Features: Faux Formula 1 race cars, video games, medical support team for the bazillion accidents that invariably occurred.
Both Houston facilities (there was a third that operated under a different name near Shepherd and I-45 North) played host to tons of birthday parties and drunk dads who wanted to show those whippersnappers a thing or two. The Formula-1-style cars were actually pretty cool and the winding track presented somewhat of a challenge for younger drivers.
One unfortunate notable incident occurred in 1983 when three men including a former Malibu employee robbed the Southwest Freeway location just after it closed. They took $1,300 in cash and killed four employees who were still at the facility, stabbing them multiple times. Two of the three perpetrators were executed and the third is serving a life sentence in prison. When did it exist?
The Malibu Grand Prix locations in Houston opened in the late '70s. The one on the Southwest Freeway closed in the late '90s and the one on 610 finally boarded up in 2005. There are still a couple left in the country, including one in Dallas.
Why did it disappear?
Like many amusement parks, it just ran out of money. There are still go-kart tracks here and there, but the demand certainly shrank after the 1990s.
What replaced it?
Basically, nothing. As mentioned above, there are a handful of go-kart tracks scattered around but nothing quite like Malibu and its Formula 1-style racing. As other amusement parks have slowly receded, it is not that surprising Malibu has as well.
What is there now?
The Southwest Freeway location always seemed to me to be oddly situated in the crook of the freeway near the Westpark exit. Today, it is thus far an empty lot. The 610 location was demolished as part of the freeway expansion and is currently a massive dirt lot.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Houston Press' biggest stories.