Business

Prepping Gillette for monster trucks a messy, meticulous job

Base soil is spread Wednesday on the field at Gillette Stadium in preparation for Saturday’s Monster Jam.
George Rizer for The Boston Globe
Base soil is spread Wednesday on the field at Gillette Stadium in preparation for Saturday’s Monster Jam.

More than 30,000 spectators will visit Gillette Stadium Saturday
to watch two hours of monster trucks performing flips and jumps and, of course, crushing old junkers.

What they won’t see is the 650 hours that workers put in, preparing a dirt track fit for destruction while keeping the New England Patriots’ home turf pristine.

“It’s a big undertaking,” said Dan Allen, senior director of track construction for Feld Motor Sports in Palmetto, Fla. “It’s much more than people see in the two hours of the event.”

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Feld’s “Monster Jam” series is a traveling circus of 1,500-horsepower trucks jacked up on enormous wheels, bearing such names as “Grave Digger” and “El Toro Loco.” They can do some serious damage, so Allen and his 12-man crew spent an entire day placing a thick plastic liner and two layers of ¾-inch plywood over the field where Tom Brady throws touchdowns.

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Then came the dirt — some 9,000 tons of it. Fifteen dump trucks hauled in about 24 loads apiece.

“It’s like ants at a picnic,” Allen said. “They just keep coming.”

Foxboro,MA 06/17/15 photos of Gillette Stadium on day one of two day process of transforming the football/soccer field into a monster truck course for this weekend's event. most of today's work was consumed with spreading the base soil, tomorrow additional topsoil and moguls will be added. MONSTER TRUCK SITS OUTSIDE THE STADIUM ON PIT ROW... .(photo by George Rizer ) reporter, callum borchers
George Rizer for The Boston Globe
Vehicles that will take part in Saturday’s Monster Jam are lined up outside Gillette Stadium.

A durable track can’t be built from any old dirt, either. Allen uses a mixture that is roughly 70 percent clay and 30 percent sand. Clay allows workers to shape firm mounds and ramps — Allen doesn’t take the shortcut of burying pre-made apparatuses — while sand keeps the dirt soft enough to make it easy to work with.

“It’s actually an art,” Allen said. “We spend a lot of money on finding the right material to build the best track that will hold up to racing all night. People don’t want to see my bulldozers and loaders out there fixing the start line, fixing the corners. They want to see monster trucks.”

Foxboro,MA 06/17/15 photos of Gillette Stadium on day one of two day process of transforming the football/soccer field into a monster truck course for this weekend's event. most of today's work was consumed with spreading the base soil, tomorrow additional topsoil and moguls will be added. SIMILAR TO THE BULL GANG AT THE BOSTON GARDEN, CREWS HERE PROTECT THE FIELD WITH LAYERS OF PLYWOOD BEFORE SOIL DUMPED ON TOP. .(photo by George Rizer ) reporter, callum borchers
The Boston Globe
Foxboro,MA 06/17/15 photos of Gillette Stadium on day one of two day process of transforming the football/soccer field into a monster truck course for this weekend's event. most of today's work was consumed with spreading the base soil, tomorrow additional topsoil and moguls will be added. SIMILAR TO THE BULL GANG AT THE BOSTON GARDEN, CREWS HERE PROTECT THE FIELD WITH LAYERS OF PLYWOOD BEFORE SOIL DUMPED ON TOP. .(photo by George Rizer ) reporter, callum borchers
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In some Southern states, the natural soil meets Allen’s standards. But here in New England, the soil is very stony, he said. That makes it hard to get what he needs.

“Even if I find it, I have to screen it to get the stones out,” Allen said. “The last thing I want is to have a conversation with you about how we hit people in the front row with rocks.”

Foxboro Ma 6/18/2015 Monster Truck competition preparations at Gillette Stadium. Staff/Photographer Jonathan Wiggs Topic: Reporter
The Boston Globe
Foxboro Ma 6/18/2015 Monster Truck competition preparations at Gillette Stadium. Staff/Photographer Jonathan Wiggs Topic: Reporter

The challenge of getting perfect dirt has turned Allen into a soil hoarder. In placed where “Monster Jam” has multiyear contracts, including Foxborough, he sometimes stashes dirt after a show and saves it for the next year.

In Anaheim, Calif., Allen forms his dirt into a short plateau and paints lines on it, creating a parking lot for employees of the Angels baseball team. In Tampa, he digs a pit for the dirt and covers it with sod.

In Foxborough, the dirt from last year’s show — the first at Gillette — was stored in a pile at the back of a parking lot across Route 1.

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“There aren’t too many people who consider dirt an asset, but it is to us,” Allen said. “I actually try to get it inside fenced-in, secure areas with cameras to keep it safe.”

Foxboro Ma 6/18/2015 Monster Truck competition preparations at Gillette Stadium. Staff/Photographer Jonathan Wiggs Topic: Reporter
Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff
Workers prepare the topsoil at Gillette Stadium for Saturday’s “Monster Jam.”

What it takes to host Monster Jam

• A 12-man crew works 650 man hours to construct and break down the track.

• The field is protected by 6mm plastic liner and two layers of 3/4-inch plywood, which is covered with 9,000 tons of dirt — a mixture of 70 percent clay and 30 percent sand.

• 15 dump trucks haul 24 loads each to bring it in.

Callum Borchers can be reached at callum.borchers@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @callumborchers.