TALLMADGE: Bobby Noah has had a ton of weight on his mind this week — about 3,000 tons to be exact.
That’s the amount of dirt it takes to transform the normally pristine floor inside the arena at the Summit County Fairgrounds into a race track where motorcycles and ATVs will soar high in the air.
As the promoter of the Summit Indoors MX this weekend, it was up to Noah and his crew to literally make a mountain out of a molehill.
It all started Monday when five guys, a giant bulldozer, a wheel loader and a skid-steer loader began at the crack of dawn the arduous task of covering the 28,000-square-foot floor with a 5-inch layer of dirt.
This took a couple of hours before the real fun began.
Noah and his crew walked around the arena and kicked at the dirt some with their boots and mapped out where the one giant hill that towers over racers would go and then looked where to add smaller ones for good measure and the obligatory hairpin turns.
There was a time when the track was meticulous drawn out on paper, but Noah said this is not their first time at the rodeo so they just now map it out on the fly.
Noah runs Tallmadge-based Patriot Promotions which has put on the race for about 20 years.
He started out on the track working as a flagger before moving up the ranks to become the brains behind the operation after the original promoter stepped aside a few years back.
Determining the route of the course, he said, is by far the toughest task, although moving some 2,000 yards of soil is nothing to sneeze at.
“We try to do the track layout different every time,” Noah said. “We want to make it so the riders don’t ride the same thing every time.”
Since the arena at the fairgrounds is lower than the spectator level, Noah said, this helps ensure a motorcycle doesn’t end up in the third row of the bleachers. But it is still not unheard of to have an overzealous racer land on or even go over the safety railings.
Noah said he keeps this in mind when determining the path of the course while still working to maintain the right flow.
If you space the hills too close — it beats up the riders.
If you space the hills and turns too far apart, you end up with a course that is not challenging enough.
“I could build the perfect track and someone will still complain,” Noah said. “If I hit 80 to 85 percent of the people happy, then I’m happy.
“It is impossible to build the perfect track.”
Once the course is set, it was up to the skillful driving of big-equipment operators like Chip Thomas to not only navigate the arena’s narrow equipment door but also plunk the mountains of dirt in just the right spots.
The Seville resident figures he traverses the well-worn path from the arena to the giant pile of dirt outside about 300 times.
The task can be tedious and loud so he wears earbuds and listens to country music to ease the monotony.
While he helps create it, Thomas said he is not one to try it out.
“I rode the track once and that was enough,” he said. “It doesn’t look bad, but it beats you up.”
Noah said they try to get the track built in a day, but the work always spills over into Tuesday in anticipation of Thursday’s practice runs.
Tuesday was spent putting the final touches on the track.
Noah said a couple of experienced and not-so experienced riders took spins around the track Wednesday to make sure everything was safe and challenging enough.
“We want to make sure everything flows on the course,” he said.
While it is important to get the hills and turns in the right spots, Noah said, the care doesn’t end there.
A giant fire hose is used daily to water the track so it doesn’t get too dry so it eats up the bike’s wheels or creates clouds of choking dust for spectators.
“We want it to look like cookie dough,” he said.
Thursday is practice day for the hundred or so eager riders to get their first crack at it.
And by time the first green flag is waved on Friday and Saturday nights, some 300 racers will be revving in the wings ready to tear up some dirt.
But there’s no rest once the last checker flag is dropped.
When Sunday rolls around, Noah said there’s that small matter of removing some 3,000 tons of dirt to return the arena back to its “bare” floor.
“We are all pretty tired by Sunday night.”
Craig Webb can be reached at email@example.com or 330-996-3547.