The Dirty Work of Building the Tracks of the Toyota AMA National Arenacross SeriesWednesday, December 21, 2005 | 9:47 AM
Longtime AMA Arenacross track builder Rigg Hipps is entering his
15th year of track sculpting for the country’s most popular arena-based
AURORA, Ill., (Dec. 21, 2005) – When they kick the bikes to start the second half of the 2006-’06 Toyota AMA National Arenacross Series at Dallas’ Reunion Arena, there will be a bit of history in the dirt they’ll be racing over the first weekend in January as Dallas marks the beginning of the 15th year of operations for long-time AX track builder Rigg Hipps.
An artist in every sense of the word, Hipps’ canvas is an arena floor, his paint dirt, clay and a chalk line and his brushes, a bulldozer, a couple loaders and a shovel. His ‘rideable’ artwork will be showcased throughout the United States this winter, interacting with athletes in a hyper, loud, awe-inspiring competitive show that’s entertaining for the entire family. And Hipps has been one of the true pioneers of arena-based competition track construction.
“The best thing about Rigg is his ability to adapt to all kinds of situations that have the potential to delay or, worse yet, shut our track construction operation down,” said Todd Jendro, senior director of operations for Clear Channel Entertainment’s Motor Sports Division. “And when it’s all said and done, Rigg’s work on the Toyota AMA National Arenacross Series tracks is second-to-none in the industry. Ask any of the riders and they’ll tell you that.”
Series points leader Chad Johnson, for instance, was amazed at how the dirt came together at Albany. With New York’s central region of the state literally saturated due to heavy rains prior to the season opener in late October, Hipps and his crew pulled off a small miracle in getting the track built, dried-out and prepped throughout the weekend so that the faces of the jumps didn’t look like a multi-lane slot car track and the berms held their form, lap after lap.
“I was calling some buddies that live in upstate New York and they were like ‘Dude, it’s been raining here for two weeks straight. You guys are gonna have a mudder even though you’re indoors!,’” said Johnson. “When I got there (Albany) I was expecting the worst. But Rigg managed to get the track together perfectly. It held up well through the whole weekend and everybody was saying it made for some of the best racing at an opener that anybody could remember.”
For his part Hipps is casual about taking credit. He points to his crew of three guys as the team that puts an arena’s most unique show of the year in order.
“I think the best thing we have going is that the buildings we work with have the confidence in us knowing it’s not our first event,” said the veteran Hipps. “Even with a new building, such as Wells Fargo Arena (Des Moines) and Charlotte’s Bobcats Arena, we can take them by the hand and walk them through it if need be.”
Hipps said that, regardless of the venue, there’s going to always be something that upsets the process. Be it having to wait for a late basketball game to finish or moving in over an ice sheet, the guys are always in ‘hustle mode’ come move in.
“Going over ice is nerve-wracking, let me tell you,” said Hipps. “Not in a lack of confidence on our part, but more of a matter of things clicking along smoothly in a short time before the race starts.”
For instance, unlike supercross on a baseball or football field, dirt can’t be piled up in the middle of an arena floor and then shoved around with a dozer. When Hipps is moving in over an ice sheet the process is meticulous, moving in a little bit of dirt at a time and pushing it out in a straight line so as not to buckle the plywood covering the ice.
So in the end it’s Hipps that answers to everybody from the riders and team managers to the event operations team, and from the building superintendent to the fire marshal. He’s the series’ quarterback on the track, a go-to guy that’s been doing this traveling competition motor sports show for 15 years now.
“You know, it’d be easy if it was just mud I had to deal with every weekend,” said Hipps with a laugh. “There’s so many things involved with building a track for Toyota National Arenacross Series event that I never ceased to be amazed at the stuff we run into and have to overcome as a team. Bottom line, though, is that at 7:30 p.m. on Friday that gate drops and, for our fans, we’ve got to be ready – and always are.”
Toyota AMA National Arenacross Series Track By-The-Numbers:
Dirt: Depending on the size of the truck, 80-150 truckloads of dirt measuring 3,000 cubic yards or 120 truckloads.
Equipment: One bulldozer, one to two skid loaders and one articulating rubber tire loader.
Crew: Four guys, including Rigg Hipps
Time to build: 18-22 hours without having to cover an ice sheet; 22-28 hours going over ice. This means a 4 a.m. move in on Thursday gets them done just in time for Friday’s 1:30 p.m. practice!
The Toyota AMA National Arenacross Series takes its traditional one month break before returning to action on Jan. 6-8 at Dallas’ Reunion Arena. For more information on the Dallas race, check out www.reunionarena.org or contact Reunion Arena at (214) 800-3000.
Tickets are available online at www.arenacross.com, www.ticketmaster.com, www.tickets.com.
For more information on the Toyota AMA National Arenacross Series log on to www.arenacross.com.