Sand transforming Columbia’s Colonial Life Arena for Monster Jam (+ video)

ccope@thestate.comFebruary 6, 2014 

Preparations are being made for Friday and Saturday's Monster Jam. It involves transforming the Colonial Life Arena into a large sand box. Thursday, dump trucks were bringing in 40 loads of sand to cover the arena floor.


— A deep rumbling reverberates around the inside of the Colonial Life Arena.

It’s the Spider-Man Monster Truck rolling in and parking in a corner, drowning out the back-up beeps of the Caterpillar spreading out sand for this weekend’s Monster Jam.

From the high-up balcony seats, the Caterpillar machines spreading out dirt down below look like toys building their own sandbox. The dirt transforms the arena into a crushable venue for giant trucks to dominate.


The setting up is almost as cool as the event itself.

Dump trucks bring in about 40 loads of dirt that would be equivalent to about 800 pickup truck loads, estimated Don Beal, who has operated Caterpillar machinery for 30 years.

Don “The Dirt Man” Beal, as another worker called him, preps about 15 venues every season for Monster Jam.

Steven Foster, another member of the dirt crew, operated the Caterpillar.

“It’s just a really big toy,” he said.

Workers drape purple plastic across seats to block the chairs from the dirt.

Just two piles of sand spread a layer of dirt across maybe one-fifth of the floor space.

Another dump truck drops a third load of dirt that is darker than the first two. The dirt is decomposing, Beal said – it’s better dirt that will pack better.

You don’t really want to roll around in the darker dirt – the decompostion has been aided by the bull manure from rodeos also held at Colonial Life.

There is no glass in the dirt from the cars that are crushed by the monster trucks because the glass is removed from the cars beforehand, Foster said.

During the Monster Jam shows, the dirt team does a lot of waiting around, Foster said. But he gets to watch his favorite part of the show: the freestyle segment, when the monster trucks jump over everything at their own whim.

It will take almost all day Thursday to get the arena set up, but taking the sand out is faster than bringing it in, Beal said.

By Sunday, when the University of South Carolina women play basketball, Colonial Life Arena may look like Monster Jam never happened.

If you go

What: Monster Jam

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday

Where: Colonial Life Arena, 801 Lincoln St., Columbia

Tickets: $22, $27, $32. VIP tickets are $42. Kids aged 2-12, $7


Reach Cope at 803-771-8657 or on Twitter @cassielcope.

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