Monster Jam will invade will invade Downtown Jacksonville on Saturday for its annual night of motorized mayhem and deafening noise for an estimated 70,000 fans.
Fans will begin descending on TIAA Bank Field on Saturday afternoon to see the 1,500-hp monster trucks. Traffic around the home of the Jacksonville Jaguars will get hectic before the event and monster jammed after the 7 p.m. show.
The senior driver on the Monster Jam tour is 55-year-old Tom Meents, who drives a “futuristic SUV” that he calls Max D. With almost 30 years of Monster Jam under his seatbelt, he is a favorite at the Jacksonville show. It’s also the place where some new truck tricks have been shown, like Cam McQueen’s first backflip in 2010.
“It is an awesome stadium, number one, and a big facility. The fans just come, and especially Florida — Florida fans for Monster Jam are the best,” he said. “You are going to expect the most entertainment possible. Our tour is cool, and we have a stacked lineup. People always ask, is there going to be a backflip? Last weekend, we were 11 for 11. It was insane.”
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Great names for big racing trucks
There are 12 of these 13-foot-tall, 12,000-pound racing machines scheduled to race, jump, pirouette and flip at the event. Expected to rumble around the tons of dirt piled atop the football field are trucks like Grave Digger, driven by Adam Anderson; Bakugan Dragonoid, driven by Camden Murphy; Soldier Fortune, driven by Kayla Blood; and El Toro Loco, driven by Jamey Garner.
Fans can meet the drivers and see the trucks from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the Pit Party. Stadium gates will open at 5 p.m., then a trackside preview show with driver interviews and opening ceremonies will start about 6 p.m.
The event will begin at 7 p.m. with time trials between the trucks, two by two, until the quickest one is crowned. There’s a 2-wheel skills test for trucks and drivers. Then the finale is called Freestyle, where trucks get the run of the stadium floor’s dirt ramps, hills and stacked cars for up to two minutes. That is where they fly high, do wheelies as well as those backflips. Fans get to vote on the winner.
For Meents, who started competing in Monster Jam in 1993, it is a workout racing one of these trucks. And he is handicapped in the points race after a blown engine meant he didn’t make the first race.
“I have battled my butt all the way back to third, and hopefully I can keep climbing,” he said. “The key is fitness. You have to stay fit and work on your abs and your core. That’s very huge. … The cool thing is when you are doing what you love, you just want to do it forever.”
Monster traffic jams possible
Monster Jam fans should also be aware that other activities are scheduled Downtown on Saturday, with all of those ticket-holders seeking parking near TIAA Bank Field.
The Jacksonville Iceman will face off against the Worcester Railers at 7 p.m. at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena. At 7:30 p.m., the Jacksonville Symphony’s “Queen of Rock and Soul” show will take place in Jacoby Symphony Hall at the Jacksonville Center for the Performing Arts. The center’s Moran Theater will host Frankie Beverly and Maze at 8 p.m. in its Moran Theatre. And Justin Willman’s magic show is planned for 7 p.m. at the Florida Theatre.
With all those Downtown events on Saturday night, police historically remind fans that municipal and private parking lots will fill up quickly. Traffic flow when the show ends will be pretty much like a Jaguars football game — every road around the stadium will be heading outbound, so follow officers and sign boards directing you. Check @JSOPIO for traffic updates before and after the show.
Event tickets start at $27 each with fees, up to $111 for club seating. Pit Party Passes start at $15 each at monsterjam.com.
There are more than 50 Monster Jam shows scheduled around the country between now and the finals, set for July 1 in Nashville.