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WORCESTER - While area residents were shoveling and plowing snow during the storm Thursday, workers were pushing and piling mounds of dirt with heavy equipment to create an off-road motorcycle track inside the DCU Center.
The 850-foot dirt bike course for the AMSOIL Arenacross features jumps as high as 55-feet, several 180-degree turns, seven whoop-de-doos, many high berms and 14 short hills, all created by more than 100 truckloads of dirt delivered inside the arena, according to Pete Henderson, track construction manager. That's 1,900 tons of dirt, which translates to 1,500 cubic yards, he said.
With the necessary dirt stockpiled locally for this weekend's Arenacross, as well as the Monster Jam in February, Mr. Henderson said it takes months of preparation and planning to make an event like this happen.
"We had seven trucks bringing the dirt in," Mr. Henderson said. "We prepare, set up the trucking. We get the equipment on rent, on standby. With being up in the Northeast with the weather, they rent the front-end loaders for months at a time to outside contractors for plowing snow. So, for us, to get equipment, it can be difficult at times."
Despite doing it in the dirt - or, specifically, 80 percent clay and 20 percent sand mix - AMSOIL Arenacross operations are familiar with snow, Mr. Henderson said.
"We're dealing from January to March, all across the country. The snow, we deal with it all the time," Mr. Henderson said. "So there are preparations and stuff that we can do if Mother Nature hammers us with wet material. We can dry that material with additives or mulch."
Despite Mother Nature's efforts to the contrary, Mr. Henderson said, the dirt for this weekend is as good it's going to get here.
"It's soft, a little softer than what we like, so it's going to create ruts. So it's going to make racing on the track a little more difficult. So these guys have to be really consistent picking the line to win the race," Mr. Henderson said. "Your East Coast guys are obviously going to ride a little bit better in this material then, let's say, your West Coast guys who are used to hard-pack material."
On site, Mr. Henderson said, they have an excavator, a bulldozer, two front-end loaders, two skid steers and a telehandler to construct the track.
"We haul the dirt in in eight hours," Mr. Henderson said. "A typical move-in day is two days, so normally we will go Wednesday and Thursday, with the show, Friday, Saturday and Sunday."
Team Babbitt's manager Denny Bartz and truck driver/mechanic Rob Goodwin were in sunny Los Angeles the week before Christmas. Now, they are preparing Team Babbitt's for victory in a frigid, snow-covered Worcester. Team Babbit's includes 53-time arenacross winner and defending AMSOIL Arenacross winner Tyler Bowers, three-time arenacross winner Zach Ames, who finished third at AMSOIL Arenacross last year, and rookie Colt Nichols, all riding Kawasaki KX 250F motorcycles.
"We hope to win," Mr. Goodwin said. "We have three riders. We hope to finish right on top with all three. That's the plan. This team has won the championship the last four years."
Mr. Bartz and Mr. Goodwin said the weather outside doesn't really affect motorcyclists inside.
"Most venues we don't park indoors, so this is a bonus," Mr. Goodwin said, referring to the DCU Center. "If we weren't indoors, we would have to move everything out of the truck. So the weather is not going to affect us this week at all."
For the first round of this 12-round series, 50 professional riders will compete today and Saturday, and an additional 300 to 400 amateur riders will compete on Sunday. The track consists of four turns with six or seven laps of racing each race. Competitors will reach nearly 30 feet in height and cover more than 50 feet in distance when they cross the finish line, affectionately known as the catapult. The riders will cover approximately 30 feet per second on a layout filled with tight turns and challenging obstacles.
"The competition is tight and fast and close. They're battling close," Mr. Goodwin said. "It's a tight little track for 16 motorcycles to be on all at once. It gets crowded."
"There's a lot of action. It's fast-paced, aggressive. You have to be aggressive, if you want to win," Mr. Henderson said. "It is so tight out there that there is no room for mistakes. It's a great thing to see. It's a great family event to come to and bring your earplugs."
Immediately after the final race on Sunday, the crew starts tearing down.
"It usually takes about three hours to get the structures and the top blocks off," Mr. Henderson said. "And then we start loading the material out, and we'll have all the material out of the building by midnight, 1 o'clock."