In the early 1950's, there was a large quarry next to the California Pool Ballroom owned by Dennis Green. This was filled in in 1953 and eventually became the two large car parks to the south of the ballroom. In 1960, at a cost of £30,000, it was turned into a Sports Stadium which housed a Go-Kart track
April 18th 1960 - First meeting of the Dunstable Kart Racing Club.
Dunstable may be the scene of the big start of go-kart racing in this country. The British Kart Manufacturer’s Association is planning to launch the sport in an organised fashion in April, and Dunstable and Leighton Buzzard are among seven localities being considered for the meeting.
The go-kart craze is an import form the United States, where more than 100,000 people take part in the sport.
Mr. R. C. Delamont, R.A.C. Competitions Manager, whose department is controlling the sport in this country said: “There have been many exhibitions and trials up and down the country. But the Association wants to hold this meeting to launch the sport in an organised fashion.”
Dunstable Gazette and Luton Journal. 22nd January 1960
Editorial for Go-Karting at the California
Britain’s latest sport, Karting, was introduced to Dunstable on Saturday and if the crowd who gathered at the California Pool is anything to go by, it is bound to catch on pretty fast. Pictured here, Stephen Bartell “has a go”. His crash helmet is fastened on by Mr. David McMullan. – D8383A
also a pic of D8385A (too poor to scan)
Since the Dunstable Kart Racing Club was formed three weeks ago with 12 members, the idea has caught on and membership now stands at 67. The club in conjunction with the California Stadium, is staging a meeting there on Easter Monday afternoon, this being the first meeting of its kind in this area. There are over 170 entries and a new circuit of nearly 500 yards, RAC approved, is being used.
Dunstable Gazette and Luton Journal. 22nd April 1960
(there are no photos yet as they are too poor to reproduce)
If their Easter Monday performance at the California Stadium, Dunstable is anything to go by, kart racing enthusiasts are likely to hear a lot of the O’Neill brothers during the current season. Pictured here seated at the controls of a 100cc machine is Chris, with younger brother Hugh. They both won a heat race and Chris went on to win a semi-final. “We’re quite pleased as this is our first-ever race meeting.” Said Chris. “We hope to do well in a 197cc machine we’ve designed and will build ourselves.” D8642A
Cornering at speed during the kart race meeting watched by an estimated crowd of 5,000 on Easter Monday at the new California Stadium track. There were thrills in plenty but no-one was injured, which appears to justify the claim that this is a safe sport. – D8646A
Victor’s smile from John Chaddock of Southwood Road, Dunstable, after he had won the final of the 200cc event at Easter Monday’s kart race meeting at the California Stadium. John who led all the way in the final, remarked, “The track was a little bumpy in places but will improve with use. I’ll be doing all the racing I can during the summer.” – D8643A
There was a big drop in attendance at the kart meeting organised by Dunstable Kart Racing Club at the California Stadium, Dunstable on Whit Monday. Few people watched the racing compared with the thousands who attended the first meeting on Easter Monday. The organisers blamed the many counter-attractions for the decline. Entries were also down. There were 80 competitors at Easter and only 52 on Monday. Most of these came from the Dunstable club and again officials blamed the large number of kart meetings in other parts of the country for the decline in visiting competitors.
But a number of competitors had said last month that they would not race at Dunstable again until the track surface was improved. On Monday, the surface still seemed the same although the route of the track had been changed. The change made the sport far less exciting for the spectators even though it meant racing at higher speeds. Bends had been made less tight and in one case eliminated altogether.
The Secretary of the Dunstable Kart Club, Mr. P. C. Harris, said the course had been changed because of the grumbles by club members. “They wanted it changed.” He said. “The stadium does allow us to lay the track out more or less as we please. At the next club meeting it will be decided whether or not the new course was a success or not. It’s a trial and error method to find the best course.”
Dunstable Borough Gazette 10 June 1960
Drama hit the California Stadium at Dunstable Downs on Monday when there was possibly the worst crash since kart racing began at Dunstable last Easter.
The driver, 28-years-old Denis Crowdy, was pinned under his blazing machine. Officials ran forward as he wriggled free. The race was stopped while the officials, helped by other drivers, put out the flames. Minutes later as the blackened, burned-out kart was dragged away and dumped in the shallow rainwater pool inside the track, an official of Dunstable Kart Racing Club told the crowds that Denis had escaped serious injury. Later, Denis, who lives at 24 Hill Common, Hemel Hempstead, told a reporter: “It was my first race. A friend and I paid over £50 to build the machine.
“As far as I can see, two tyres have gone, together with the seat, petrol tank and most of the cables. I had been leading all the way, but then another kart caught up and drew level. We were approaching the bottleneck together. I knew we would collide if we hit the bend together, so I pulled off the track, and into the straw bales."
“The nearside front wheel caught and the speed – it must have been about 30 m.p.h – threw me over. The petrol tank split and then the whole thing went up in flames. I was lucky the tank split really,” said Denis, wiping his smoke-blackened forehead. “It might have blown up, and then I would have been in trouble.”
Racing was held up for a quarter of an hour after the crash while the smoldering wreckage was cleared from the track. It was the first crash involving fire at the stadium since it opened.
Dunstable Borough Gazette 5 August 1960
The self-styled “California Civic Centre” at Whipsnade road, Dunstable, came under fire at Dunstable Town Council’s meeting on Tuesday. The Council, which is building a civic centre, was annoyed about the California’s choice of name, and the appearance of the site was also criticised.
Kart racing there caused comment and posters advertising the centre were the subject of a committee report.
Commenting afterwards, Mr. Edwin Green, the man behind the building of the California, said: “I’m honoured they are taking so much interest in me.” Mr. Green – “I’m beginning to think the Council’s got its knife into me” – is anxious because he feels the Council is trying to stop kart racing at the stadium, which, he says, cost £30,000 to build.
It is understood that complaints have been made about noise caused by the Karting.
At Tuesday’s Council meeting the Planning Committee made a recommendation which was approved by the Council. This took the form of a request to the local planning authority to make a direction under the Town and County Planning (General Development) Order, 1950, regarding the California.
Said Mr. Green: “It means that if the local planning authority agrees to the Council’s request, every time I want to hold a kart meeting or similar event at the stadium, I will have to apply to the Council for permission.”
Presenting the recommendation at the Council meeting, the Chairman of the Planning Committee, Ald. M. L. Kilby, said: “We have never received planning application for go-kart racing, so in the resolution you will note that we are asking the developer to submit an application so that it can be considered by the Committee.”
Mr. Green wrote a letter to the Council, asking if his views could be heard.
The Mayor, Ald. Louis Palmer, referred to this at the Council meeting, when he said: “There is a letter from the developer received today in which he asks if his views could be received before a decision is taken.”
“Is it the intention to make him ask for his application before a decision can be taken?”
Ald. Kilby: Exactly, Mr. Mayor.
There was no other comment on the resolution, which was approved.
Mr. Green has now sent a letter to the local planning authority setting forth his views. In this he refers to gaining Council approval in principle for the building of the stadium in a chalk quarry and restoration was nearing completion by mid-1956 he states.
At this stage the Council asked if they could use the quarry as a refuse dump, to which Mr. Green agreed. This raised the level of the stadium and, in addition, the owner agreed to a request by the Borough Surveyor to use a wire fence instead of a stone wall around the area.
In due course the stadium was not only at a higher level but was surrounded by a wire fence instead of a wall. Permission was given to the plan for the stadium without restriction as to use.
By Easter this year, the letter continues, the stadium was ready for kart racing and the Dunstable Kart Club was formed. Mr. Green made it clear that karts must be silenced to road vehicle standards.
After the first meeting he received only one complaint – from the occupier of 105, Meadway. Mr. Green states he then notified the secretary of the kart club that he was most dissatisfied with the machine scrutineer at the meeting and insisted that all machines in future should be completely and adequately silenced.
Since that time no complaints had reached Mr. Green in any form. In fact, the machines were now much more silent than many road vehicles using the Whipsnade Road.
The letter states that the owner would stop further use of the stadium by karts or for any other sport if a nuisance was committed.
“It is respectfully submitted that any alteration in the permitted use of the stadium at this belated time, after the expenditure of thousands of pounds, would be most unjust.” Continues the letter.
The letter says that no undue nuisance has ever existed, and, in fact, very substantial support could be obtained for the stadium.
Says the letter: “ The owner again declares that he is quite prepared to sell to the Council the Civic Centre at an agreed price if that is the wish of the Council, and would point out that in the interim, the borough possesses not only wide amenities but substantial rates from the undertaking, whereas in most towns such amenities are a charge on the community.
Mr. Green’s naming of the buildings at Whipsnade road as “The California Civic Centre” provoked a resolution from the Council that the Town Clerk write to Mr. Green suggesting that he should remove the word “civic.”
The General Purposes Committee reported that it had been informed that notices concerning functions at the centre were “still being indiscriminately posted on various private premises throughout the town.”
The committee’s paper read: “The Town Clerk advised upon the legal position. Resolved: That the Chairman and Vice-Chairman be authorised to take steps or proceedings as now mentioned to the committee.”
Three was no explanation of the meaning of this decision at the council meeting.
Cllr. W. C. Toll, however, commented: “This man or company, generally seems to be taking an awful lot of liberties, and frankly, I don’t think it would be a bad idea for the Council to put some pressure on him to make him complete his development.”
Mr. Green, questioned by a reporter afterwards, said he would not change the name.
“There is a mistaken impression that “Civic” refers only to municipal centres. But you look at the dictionary. ‘Civic Centre’ means ‘a centre for citizens’ and that is exactly what ‘The California Civic Centre’ is. There should not be any confusion.
Mr. Green said the only posters that had been put up recently had been on properly authorised hoards or on his own property in High-street North.“I shall be very pleased to see the building completed.” He said. “Work has been proceeding over the last few months with a weekly expenditure of £200. The front will be completed by the end of September. I am indeed, trying to improve its appearance with the aim of creating a building of dignity and beauty. During the past months a very pretty ornamental wall has been erected at a cost of £700.”
Dunstable Borough Gazette and Luton Journal Friday August 5th 1960