“Diesel Brothers: Monster Jam Breaking World Records” features a jump at the record book by Megalodon. (Feld Entertainment / Courtesy Discovery)
Feld sports property returns with special on Discovery Channel
On the eve of Shark Week, Discovery Channel and Feld Entertainment aired a three-hour Monster Jam truck show Aug. 8 that was recorded over two days at Bradenton Motorsports Park in Florida.
“Diesel Brothers: Monster Jam Breaking World Records” featured seven world record attempts, six of them successful, including Adam Anderson’s jump over eight monster trucks in one called Megalodon, after the extinct prehistoric mega-shark.
The Diesel Brothers — David “Heavy D” Sparks and David “Diesel Dave” Kiley — star in the Discovery program of the same name and last year jumped the 12,000-pound BroDozer monster truck over a flying airplane. This year they provided commentary, play-by-play and sideline interviews, along with TV host Chris Jacobs, and went head to head in a drag race.
The “Breaking World Records” show was produced for Discovery Channel by Magilla Entertainment in association with Feld Entertainment, a company that during nonpandemic times fills venues around the world with live events such as Disney on Ice, Marvel Universe Live!, Sesame Street Live!, Jurassic World Live Tour and Feld Motor Sports properties like Monster Jam and AMA Supercross.
Feld Director of Operations Jayme Dalsing said the production came together quickly but has been in the works in some form for a decade.
“We started doing concepts on the event around mid-May and we actually performed the event June 24 and 25,” he said. “We had been talking about doing a special event, some type of stunt spectacular, something where we go and break a bunch of Guinness records… (for) probably 10 years.”
Holding the spectator-less event at Bradenton Motorports Park made sense for a several reasons. The track is about 20 minutes from Feld’s main facility in Palmetto, Fla., which made it easier to get as many as 80 people a day from both Feld and Discovery as well as equipment to the venue. Another factor: One of the records set — Bryce Kenny, driving the Great Clips Mohawk Warrior, became the first person to break the 100 mph barrier in a monster truck — required a drag strip, Dalsing said.
“We’ve always wanted to work with them,” he said.
The track also had some open land that proved useful. “It was a great place to have it. … The track was awesome to work with,” Dalsing said, adding that he anticipates Feld will work with the facility in the future.
Getting the event done before the weather turned hot and rainy was also a priority, but the overarching concern was doing it safely while dealing with the difficulties of travel and getting a large number of people together amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“It definitely was a special case,” he said. “Normally we’ll have a schedule or tour that we’ll pre-plan out and we’ll have six months notice at minimum and we’ll start working on it anywhere from three to four months out. … For this, it really was about three weeks from the time we got the green light to actual show days. The time crunch was immense.”
“We had a lot of good legal advice, good health advice from the state of Florida and the county” regarding safety precautions, keeping groups of staff segmented, etc., he said.
Dalsing said it was important to put the show together not just to maintain a connection with fans but also for the sake of Feld staff, which like much of the live entertainment industry has been hit hard by the pandemic-induced shutdowns.
“It was really important to be able to go out and do this event … get back working and get the machine back up and running,” he said. “When the fans see it they are going to get a renewed sense of excitement about Monster Jam. We’re seeing it already through a lot of our social media and just fans reaching out and thanking us for putting something on. It’s just like any other sport in the world … we are really happy to be one of those first ones back.”
Feld’s Monster Energy AMA Supercross series was the first sports league to complete a season using the bubble approach, at the University of Utah’s Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, after the pandemic struck.
Dave Prater, Feld’s director of operations – Supercross, said the series had just left Daytona and moved into Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis the week of March 14 when things went sideways.
“We moved into Lucas Oil Stadium on Tuesday, were going at it like a normal race week … and were promoting the (March 14) event as late as Thursday,” he said.
By Thursday evening the decision was made to do the event without an audience but by Friday afternoon the races in Indy were called off.
“We were naive enough to think that we were just going to run a back-to-back Saturday-Sunday race in Detroit the next weekend to make up for it,” Prater said. “So we started planning that and by probably Monday midday we quickly realized that Detroit wasn’t going to happen, Seattle and so on. Probably by the middle of the next week we had already decided, let’s hold off, let’s postpone the seven races that are coming up and lets kind of take a pause, see where this all shakes out and go from there.”
After a week of monitoring the situation, an internal decision was made to postpone the remaining seven events to the fall, but that idea gave way to the bubble concept sans audience after it emerged that Major League Baseball was contemplating using that approach in Arizona and Florida, he said.
Feld opened talks first with State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., and then with additional venues in other states — Rice-Eccles, NRG Stadium in Houston, The Dome at America’s Center in St. Louis, and Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas. After consultations with governors’ offices, health departments and the venues, Feld settled on Salt Lake City.
“They were the first to say, ‘Alright, let’s go. Let’s get it done,’” Prater said, explaining that Feld and Supercross had a 20-year relationship with the Utah Sports Commission and the governor’s office.
The Feld organization also had a good relationship with the university, which was eager to host the Supercross bubble, and the original schedule had the Supercross finals in Salt Lake City, he said.
A restart plan was formulated and distributed to the roughly 750 people who would be involved in the event and everyone was tested for infection. They also had to sign a health and safety commitment document and answer a screening questionnaire, Prater said.
Once a person’s test results came back negative — usually after a 48-hour wait — they were allowed inside the event perimeter through a single entry and exit point, he said. All had their temperature taken before entering and once inside had to wear face coverings and maintain physical distancing.
Feld’s operations staff was divided into four or five groups that didn’t mix with one another, which Prater described as “little bubbles within our larger bubble.”
One group was quarantined after someone exhibited COVID-19 symptoms, but other than that, the series of races went off smoothly, and the only complications came from changeable weather and wide temperature swings from the 40s to the 90s, Prater said.
The races in Utah, broadcast on NBC networks, began on May 31 and wrapped up on June 21. Plans for 2021 call for the usual 17-race season beginning in January at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif.