Intrust Bank Arena is being transformed into a racetrack. Revved-up racing and stunning stunts promise to ensue.
It’s all in conjunction with the Advanced Auto Parts Monster Jam Thunder Nationals. The family-friendly event returns to Wichita to host three shows this weekend. It also will give fans an opportunity to meet the riders and mingle on the course.
This is the third year that Intrust Bank Arena will host the event, general manager A.J. Boleski said. He attributes its return to successful ticket sales in a market fertile for family entertainment.
Monster Jam is known for its outrageous stunts and daredevil moves. The events highlight freestyle and racing competitions among custom-designed trucks that are an average of 12 feet tall and 12 feet wide resting on top of 66-inch high tires. Most weigh a minimum of 10,000 pounds and are capable of going up to 100 mph. They can soar up to 35 feet in the air.
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The colorful vehicles bounce through obstacles, crash over junk cars and seemingly fly across the course. Each has its own personality. There’s Bad News, a bright orange vehicle featuring a cartoonish, crazed paperboy. Ice Monster evokes chills as a frozen ghost howls along its door. Incinerator is decorated with blazing flames. Also showcased will be Iron Outlaw, Ground Pounder, Barbarian and Bounty Hunter.
It’s quite a production to make all of this happen.
“We have to take the ice out for the monster trucks,” Boleski said. “It takes two days to do that and three days to put it back in. It’s quite intense. This is a non-dirt show. They will operate on our concrete floors. It’s a lot of work to make it all fit, but it’s fun to see it come together.”
The shows fuse together a sporting experience of racing, showmanship and fan interaction. The 90-second freestyle run is a staple. Buses, cars, dirt tracks, airplanes and camping caravans become causalities as each driver shows off their skills and maneuvers to wow fans and rouse audiences. Much of the vehicles that will become wreckage are liberated from local salvage yards.
One of the motorists who will be at the shows is Darren Migues of Olathe. He is the mechanical operator for Bounty Hunter. He started out as a fan, taking his son to shows. Both fell in love with the experience, and when his son wanted to get closer to the drivers and trucks, Migues discovered an opportunity.
“I did research on the internet and found out that the 2Xtreme Team was about 20 miles from my home,” he said. “I e-mailed them about visiting their shop and just kept in touch. I bugged them enough that they eventually gave me a six-month job, and that has turned into six years and counting.”
Migues, 42, now travels across the world performing in Monster Jams. He said he traveled 48 weeks last year. When he’s not on the road, he’s working on trucks. He considers Kansas his home and said that Wichita is a homecoming of sorts since he doesn’t usually get to do shows near Kansas City.
Family is a big motivation for him in this venture.
“The cool thing about what we do is that we gear it towards the family,” he said. “The atmosphere is always very high. We keep people on the edge. I’ve never seen anybody asleep in the audience. You may be there for 2½ hours, but you don’t realize that because we keep it running.”
A unique component to the Monster Jam events is the fan interaction. Parties in the Pit are offered prior to many shows and allow ticketholders to meet the drivers and get a close-up look at the vehicles.
“The fans can come down, talk to us and get a real feel for what we do,” he said. “In a lot of motor sports, you can’t do that. It’s non-stop entertainment with us, though.”