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The roar of virtual NASCAR racing has been silenced at Silicon Motor Speedway at the Walden Galleria.

Silicon Entertainment, the parent company of the interactive racing center venture, has closed three of its 15 mall-based operations due to fiscal difficulties. The Galleria racing center, which debuted in late 1999, occupied nearly 5,000 square feet of space adjacent to the food court and cinema entrance. The site was previously home to Pizzeria Uno restaurant.

Jim Soos, general manager of the Galleria, said at this time there are no firm plans for filling the space.

Chris Morse, a spokesman for California-based Silicon Entertainment, blamed the demise of the Cheektowaga center and two others outside New York, on the company's difficulties attracting capital investors.

"The company has not been able to access the capital necessary to continue the roll-out of new locations. The slowdown in the capital markets has caused the company to focus on becoming cash-flow positive in 2001," Morse said. "As a result, we have restructured the company and closed some racing centers."

Decisions on the closures were made on a market-by-market basis, according to the company representative. Factors including customer volume, demographics and local market cost structure issues, were weighed in shutting down the Galleria site.

Silicon Entertainment will continue to operate its simulated NASCAR racing sites at the Carousel Mall in Syracuse, Crossgates Mall in Albany and Palisades Center in West Nyack, along with nine others sprinkled across the U.S.

Earlier this month the company announced winners of its chainwide 2000 Action Cup, which saw some 15,000 virtual race car drivers face-off on its interactive tracks. A Lancaster man, who put in his laps at the Galleria site, placed 6th overall in the national competition.

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