Supercross’s premier series will be firing back up as the pandemic lockdown begins to ease up, but the creative way that it’s being done that is interesting.
Feld Entertainment, Inc. who is responsible for running Monster Energy AMA Supercross will bring the series back beginning this Sunday, May 31st at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah. But what will make this year different than any other is the remainder of the schedule through June 21st will remain at the UTP stadium. In all, the final seven, made-for-tv races without fans will be broadcast on NBC networks. The Utah Sports Commission, a longtime partner of Supercross, has coordinated our return to Utah.
To make the race interesting for the riders and fans, track configurations will change across the events.
The process to bring Supercross back while the novel coronavirus is still a part of everyday life was unique. According to David Prater, Director of Operations for Supercross at Feld Motor Sports, they began looking at hosting the events at a single location shortly after the lockdown.
“We knew almost from the jump that we were going to have to look at a single facility given how locations on the schedule were at various stages of how they were or weren’t going to open back up,” Prater said. “We looked at five facilities” before settling on Rice-Eccles Stadium. The review process and getting the agreement in place took around a month.
In doing the event in one location, it serves two purposes: addresses health and safety, and provides less expense.
The stadium and areas where the teams, support, and network staff will be set up are under functional groups that will be separated to ensure social distancing. The series is providing guidelines and protocols to competitors and essential staff that complies with all federal, state and local health guidance and mandates. Mitigation efforts include mandated prescreening, testing, temperature checks, face masks, increased sanitation efforts and social distancing to limit contact among individuals executing the events. Feld Motor Sports said the stadium will assist with the implementation and execution of the plan. Supercross, in partnership with the Alpinestars Medical Unit, has a trained medical team of 7 professionals to assist on-site.
As to what would happen if someone came down with symptoms or COVID-19, Prater said it would be taken on a case-by-case basis.
“We could see a rider pulled from an event, but it’s possible that depending on severity, an entire team could be pulled.”
Riders will only be side-by-side for any lengthy time at the starting gate, but with full-face helmets, goggles, the riders are providing a form of protection. Unlike the environment before the pandemic, mechanics will not be allowed at the starting gate before races. Team managers will be up in the stadium as opposed to trackside or in the pits. Prater said they were still working with local health officials and event staff to see if they could get the top three riders on the podium together with 6’ of spacing for photos and television.
In terms of media, there will only be seven approved members allowed on-site. Riders will conduct interviews via Zoom or Skype.
Sponsorship considerations such as the Monster Energy girls will be scaled back. There will be one that holds the 30-second placard at the start of the race, and one that will carry a placard across the start area to show Heat Race 1, Heat Race 2, etc.
The final seven events in Utah also greatly reduces costs. Beyond taking travel out of the equation, while the track layout will change for each of the seven races, Feld Motor Sports will only need to truck in and truck out the dirt once, greatly reducing operational expenses.
Prater would not say specifically what the economic losses will be for the season but addressed the revenue structures that have been hit.
“The majority of our revenues come from ticket sales,” he said. “Doing these races without fans, we are being heavily affected.”
Unlike major professional sports leagues, there are no guaranteed contracts in Supercross. The riders, their teams, and support staff all see income and revenues dry up when there are no races. That added extra weight to getting the remainder of the races on the schedule in safely to ensure the media rights and sponsorship revenues.
To address racing the final events in Utah changes to how the point structure will be.
The racing format has been adjusted to reduce the number of athletes to stay within the minimum requirements and a standard race format will be used for all seven rounds, except for the finale which will be an Eastern/Western Regional 250SX Class Showdown.
Supercross Race Format for Final Seven Rounds:
- 450SX Class – 40 Riders based on current point standings and 2020 top 100 number or combined season qualifying results
- 250SX Class – 40 Riders based on current point standings and 2020 top 100 number or combined season qualifying results
- Two qualifying sessions will be held for gate pick
- 250SX Class – Two Heat Races and a Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ)
- 450SX Class – Two Heat Races and a Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ)
- 250SX Class Main Event
- 450SX Class Main Event
Fans will be able to watch races on NBC, NBCSN and NBCSports.com. Races will also be available to domestic livestream subscribers via the NBC Sports Gold “Supercross Pass” and internationally via the Supercross Video Pass.
Below is the remainder of the events and how to watch them:
NBC and NBCSN Television Schedule:
Round 11 (East): Sunday, May 31 – 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm ET on NBCSN then 4:00 – 6:00 ET on NBC
Round 12 (East): Wednesday, June 3 -10:00 pm – 1:00 am ET on NBCSN
Round 13 (East): Sunday, June 7 – 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm ET on NBCSN
Round 14 (West): Wednesday, June 10 – 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm ET on NBCSN
Round 15 (West): Sunday, June 14 – 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm ET on NBCSN
Round 16 (East): Wednesday, June 17 – 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm ET on NBCSN
Round 17 (East/West): Sunday, June 21 – 3:00 pm – 4:30 pm ET on NBCSN then 4:30 – 6:00 ET on NBC
*TV schedule subject to change.
Source: Forbes Business