Sunday, April 16, 2017

A Monstrous Undertaking

Story, Photos, Video and Interviews by Jon Cerio

SYRACUSE, N.Y. --  This year's Carrier Dome attendance record of 30,448 for the Syracuse men’s basketball team's Senior Day win over Georgia Tech was shattered on Saturday when Monster Jam rolled into town.  An estimate of around 38,000 were anticipated for the event, with 32,000 tickets sold three days before the show.

Saturday, the “Loud House” truly lived up to its billing.  The sounds of the trucks revving their engines and the roar of the crowd could be heard several blocks away.

Getting the Dirt

But before any of that could happen, there was a monstrous undertaking to get the arena ready.

“This truck just dumped its load, and now it’s going to go out and back around to Skytop,” Lacey Cole said.  The Syracuse University alum, who’s been on the Carrier Dome staff since 2012, was describing the odd sight of a dump truck exiting the structure.

“It’ll get loaded back up with more dirt, and then come back in,” Cole added.  “And they just make this route all day, until the floor is covered.”

Cole and her crew had been outside on the crisp, sunny Wednesday for approximately eight hours at that point.   She was under the assumption that the work was almost complete.

“We probably have around ten more loads,” Cole said.  “That’s a guess, but we probably have around ten more loads.”

Running its Course

There were more than ten loads to go.

“I’m hoping to get out of here by 11:00 pm,” Pete Sala said.  The Vice President of Facilities Operations for Syracuse University had to constantly run in and out of the building for meetings. 

“I don’t know if that will happen, depending on these guys with the dirt.  I’ve got to talk to them about that.  I still see we’ve got quite a few deliveries left to get into the building.”

Staying on Track

The long days didn’t start on Wednesday.  On Monday they started to put the plastic down.  They also had to remove any items that could be damaged. 

“Plastic on every piece of carpet in the building, wrapped TVs up with garbage bags, things like that,” Sala said.

Sala brought in 65 students to lay down the plastic and plywood for the event.  You can’t just throw all that dirt on the turf.

“6:00 this morning wrapping up the floor covering,” Sala said.  “7:00 this morning talking through the track layout with the dirt crew.  8:00 the first truck rolled in.  And then we’ve just been going non-stop since 8:00 this morning.”

No Room for Air

It was a sight to behold – two dump trucks at a time, driving through the elephant doors at the Dome’s loading dock.  Since the structure’s roof relies on a constant level of air pressure, the trucks had to squeeze in bumper-to-bumper in the corridor, while a member of the crew closed the outside door.  Once shut, he would then open the massive door to the arena.

Get A Load of That

It was bizarre to see the Dome floor covered in dirt.  It was just as strange seeing the construction vehicles moving mounds of the stuff around to shape the piles for jumps.

Sala estimated it was going to take about 200 loads of dirt to get the job done, at least for Wednesday.  They used garbage dumpsters to pour dirt on top of to minimize the amount that needed to be brought in.

The next day was set aside for shaping and building the tracks, along with painting the cars and course.

But that wasn’t the biggest challenge.

Monster Traffic Jam

“The toughest part is the unknown, the things people don’t think about,” Sala said.  “The parking is always challenging, because people still think you can leave – the event’s at 7:00, they can leave at 6:30 and get here and walk in the door.”

That was definitely not the case on Saturday.  Syracuse Orange basketball traffic paled in comparison the line of cars for Monster Jam.  Traffic was backed up to the 81/690 interchange. 

Getting in that line wasn’t the way to go.  If possible, you had to stay on 690 until the Teall Ave. exit, and then back track.

Once you got to campus, the struggle wasn’t over.  Cars filled every side street for a mile in every direction.  Even if you had a parking pass for a nearby lot, getting there was nearly impossible.

The only way to get to the show on time if you didn’t leave early enough was to find alternative means. 

Going the Extra Mile

One man had the right idea.  He was running a rickshaw around campus, at a great rate too - $5 a ride.  He knew the roads to avoid as well.  Though the route was a little longer than a normal trip to the Dome from Marshall Square Mall – including a stroll through Oakwood cemetery - it was well worth it.

Every person that you passed turned to look, smiling or pointing fingers in amazement.  It was a show in and of itself, before the actual show began.


Once inside the Dome, it was quite a sight to see.  Fans were actually filling the upper sections all the way around.  Granted, the bottom sections near the track were blocked off for safety.  Still it was impressive.

The track was colorfully decked out in blue and orange, probably not by coincidence.  That wasn’t the only sight to see on the Dome floor.

The monster trucks were all lined up next to one another on the west end of the arena.  They stood out for their bright paint jobs – an Easter egg assortment of greens, yellows, and blues. 

The size of the trucks was hard to miss as well.  When four military servicemen came out to sing the national anthem, they were dwarfed by the beasts on 65-inch tires.

The ‘Loud House’

When the trucks started rolling, the arena was deafening.  It was easy to see why they’re such an attraction.  The raw power and force of these machines at full speed as they burst around the dirt track was a sight to behold.

“As a guy I love it,” Don Baker, a Carrier Dome vendor said.  “The big horse power, loud noise, dirt – life is good.”

The fans actually rivaled the decibel count in the ‘loud house,’ cheering on their favorite drivers and trucks.

In fact it was so loud, the Dome itself couldn’t contain the noise.  Outside, as some last minute stragglers finally found their way into the arena, they no doubt could hear both the engines and the audience’s adrenaline revving.  Some oblivious passersby even stopped to ask what was going on inside.

Heading down the hill past the castle-like Setnor school of music, with a full moon lighting the way, it was still very audible and apparent – something monstrous was running wild in the night 

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