Saturday, January 22, 2011


My son took his oldest son and me to a Monster Truck Rally last night at Arco Arena. He kept where we were going a secret.  It turned out to be both fun and interesting.   Here are five reflections on the event.

#1 - Monster Trucks are loud (duh) -  The event is held in an arena and the trucks develop as many as 1500 horsepower using an engine that runs on alcohol (burns cooler).  The engine is in the back and the driver sits in a cage in the front.   The jumps are impressive.  My son told me that in a larger arena that the jumps are larger and there is more speed.

#2 - The crowd probably does not attend the opera (duh, too) - My son pointed out that before the recession that the crowds at these events were larger - a partial evidence of who this recession has hit.  The tickets are $20-40 so bringing a family, with treats and souvenirs could be an expensive evening.  But there were a lot of families there.   Many of the smaller kids had either ear buds or shooters clips.  The whole show took about three hours with one intermission.   They start with drag races where trucks line up at opposite ends and try to get to the middle first over a load of cars.   Then they had a freestyle competition where the trucks had 90 seconds to do all sorts of maneuvers over the parked cars and jumps and even doing broadies in the center of the ring.   With that size there is not a lot of variation but I was amazed that there were qualitative differences.  

The big attraction is a truck called Grave Digger.  I was not impressed with his performance last night although his truck was the crowd favorite.

#3 - It is a patriotic crowd - They saluted the military and the emergency responders and did a little flag waving before the event.

#4 - The trucks are delicate - Oddly enough the trucks seem to be very delicate.  They have independent suspension and four wheel drive and front and back steering.  And they are balanced to be able to get up in the air and land reasonably well.  At least one of the trucks messed up its steering during one of the events.  The mix of speed and delicacy got me to thinking about how someone would come up with the concept of doing this.  The announcer kept announcing that they have a fuel cutoff valve, perhaps reiterating that there is danger involved.  My son said at one event he went to ties flew off one of the vehicles.  The first 20 rows of the stadium were blocked off.

#5 - Arco Arena is a dump - Coincidentally yesterday the Mayor announced that things were moving forward on a plan for a new arena.  I remain skeptical about the plan on many levels.   Compared to Raley Field, Arco is shoddy.  The wood on the arm rests has not been maintained. I sat in a seat that was not fully operational.  Raley Field takes special care to make sure that the place is maintained.  The NBA has 41 games a season in each arena (or slightly more than half the games in minor league baseball) and the differences between the two stadiums are pronounced.

I still do not get why professional sports franchise owners believe they deserve taxpayer funding.  But if I were a potential investor (and if my tax dollars are potentially going to be involved in building the mediocre Kings a new home they will be) then evidence from Arco is that the owners have not been good managers or stewards.

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