There was the famed parquet floor of the former Boston Garden, where the NBA Celtics and NHL Bruins used to play.
There’s the hallowed turf of venerable Lambeau Field, the stadium of the NFL Green Bay Packers.
And of course, there is the famous red clay of Roland Garros, home of the French Open.
And now, there’s the 15-year-old dirt of Sam Boyd Stadium, where veteran operators of front-end loaders, bulldozers and mini-dozers called skid steers maneuvered their earth-moving machines like ballerinas to create the obstacle bump-filled three-dimensional motorcycle course for Saturday’s Monster Energy Supercross Finals.
“The dirt is quite old,” observed Dave Prater, director of Supercross, which will attract more than 120 top-level motorcycle racers and 38,000 fans to a soldout Sam Boyd Stadium.
It’s also what makes up the sport’s playing field, so to speak. Feld Motor Sports, based in Aurora, Ill., stores 550 truck loads of the dirt right outside Sam Boyd Stadium, where it’s used for other Feld events, such as the Monster Jam World Finals, which featured giant monster pickup trucks in competition from March 26-28.
The same dirt is used time after time for Feld sport events at Sam Boyd Stadium. In this case, the dirt for the Monster Jam event was not removed from the stadium but instead stored in the center of the venue because the stadium that’s managed by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas had no other events between the monster truck event and this Saturday’s Supercross.
If would have taken trucks two days to transfer the dirt from outside the stadium to inside the venue. But with the dirt already in the center of the field, the course was already taking shape Tuesday.
Immediately after the Monster Jam ended on March 28, crews began pushing the dirt into a two-story-tall mound in the center of the stadium field to store it for this week’s preparation. During the past month, crews have tilled it and added water to keep it soft, moist and usable for the Supercross, Prater said.
In 2006, crews did not move the dirt into the center of the stadium after the monster truck event. So, when the Supercross workers showed up a few weeks later to begin forming the dirt course in the shapes of table tops and camelback-like mogul bumps, they found dirt that “had settled like brick,” Prater said.
Nathan Swartzendruber, the event paddock manager, said an eight-inch base of dirt sits on two layers of plastic over the UNLV football field. Feld hires a company called Dirt Wurx, based in Monroe, N.Y. outside New York City, to move the dirt and set up the course.
Prater valued the dirt at $100,000-$180,000, noting that Feld tries to acquire dirt coming off construction sites.
“We own dirt in every city we race,” he noted.
The Supercross season goes from January to May, hitting major stadiums in cities such as Atlanta, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Dallas, San Diego, Oakland, Calif., and Anaheim, Calif.
Supercross ticket sales increased 13 percent in 2013, and 4 percent in 2014, Prater said. He noted average attendance is about 51,000, with tickets selling from $18-$120. The target audience is male, 18-34 years old. Supercross’ top four or five performers make more than $10 million a year, and another five make more than $1 million annually, Prater said.
As soon as Saturday night’s competition ends, crews will begin removing the dirt from Sam Boyd Stadium.
“By Tuesday morning, it will be back to a football field,” Prater said. “Hopefully, you won’t know that we were even here.”
Contact reporter Alan Snel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5273. Follow @BicycleManSnel on Twitter.