With just days to go until the Red Bull Stomping Ground Qualifier on Friday, we checked in with chief course builder Tim “Fuzzy” Hall to see how things were coming together. If you’ve been following him on Twitter, you’ve seen a few sneak-peek photos and some bizarre video of the build crew destroying a random Chicago taxi cab, so you know this is going to be one wild event. Fuzzy wouldn’t let the cat out of the bag on some of the course features yet, but we’re sure it’s going to be one to remember.
How has the time you’ve had to build the Red Bull Stomping Ground course compare to the time you usually have to build?
We do most of our contest courses in five days, and we’ve had two and a half weeks here so far. It takes a lot of pressure off, and you can really test everything to make sure it’s all dialed. You can get a lot more creative with the course, that’s for sure.
Were you able to put some additional or unique features into the course with the additional time?
I don’t want to give it away just yet (laughs). This lot has so much cool stuff. We had 3,000 yards of rock here on site that we used to build the entry into the course -- we built a downhill grade with it. We used everything we could that was already here. It turned out awesome.
The whole story of the lot is amazing, I love this lot. It’s 14 acres in one of the coolest spots in Chicago I’ve ever seen. It was an old paper mill is what I’m hearing. The landowners had to demo the building, and they crumbled it up through a grinder, so we got to use this old building as a foundation for the course.
It took us five days to get that going. It’s so crazy that we put a downhill grade in the middle of downtown Chicago. That was a lot of our time, moving all that rock. We’ve learned a lot on this build; it’s definitely creative, and we’re pretty proud of it for sure.
What’s it like to put so much into building something like this, then watch it come to life? Is it cool to see how the riders are inspired by it and use the course in ways you didn’t anticipate?
It’s way cool. It’s a lot of stress, though. You just worry; you don’t want to let anyone down. For a while, we didn’t know where we were going to get dirt from – we didn’t even know what lot we were going to be in, so I just started stressing. To see it all come together to the point where we’re actually packing lips with shovels… It’s pretty awesome.
Who’s on the crew?
We’ve got the guys I’ve worked with forever, Shawn “Elf” Walters and Jeremy “Magilla” Reiss. Then we’ve got a new kid, Clint Reynolds, he’s an east coast trail rider, and James Nutter, kind of an old-school trail rider. I’ve got a blown knee right now and I can’t test as hard as I normally would, but those guys are down to test, they’re down to hit anything in the wind, soft lips, whatever. It’s been so productive to have those guys on the team, it’s just been amazing. We all work really well together.
Just five guys to build the whole course?
It’s weird, everyone thinks that the more guys you have, the more you get done, but really, it’s so tedious to build and test the jumps, and you can’t get ahead of yourself. It has to be perfect; if you have too many guys, it almost moves too quickly, and things don’t end up flowing right.
How do you make sure the whole course flows?
You build the first obstacle, then connect to that, and so on. As far as design goes, I really don’t like doing designs, because dirt is so – there’s so much testing involved. It’s not like a wooden tranny where you can give your tranny dimensions and all that. It’s too hard to put down a design and come out with exactly what you put down on paper. It never works that way.
So, all that time going into building every day must get pretty monotonous; what have you been doing to blow off steam?
Nothing yet. We’ve been here basically from 9 in the morning to 9 at night. Just 12 hour days, hammering away at it. Every once in a while we’ll hit a bar to catch a Blackhawks game, and Elf’s really into the Celtics, so we’ve tried to catch them a few times. We’re all staying in an apartment together, and we seriously just go back there and zonk out, just tired as can be. Then we wake up at 8 and do it all over again. [Note: The day after we talked to Fuzzy, the weary crew got treated to a skydiving session.]
The taxi cab has definitely been a good thing to blow off steam, though. You feel like a new man when you get out of it after launching it or beating it up. It’s the best feeling. The taxi joint next to us gave it to us; they rule, they’re the coolest guys ever. I think we went through about eight sets of rims and tires, and they just kept hooking us up with them. That was the only way to blow off steam. It’s almost like that taxi is one of our crew.
So will you guys have to demo all your work after the event is over?
Actually, that task goes to Kurt Kitchens, he’s one of the main guys who hooks us up with equipment and dirt. He’s part of the crew, too, and he handles all the tear-down. I’ve definitely got to thank that guy.
Now that the course has taken shape, who do you expect to do well on it?
There are so many different riders; you’ve got the young contest kids like Hucker and TJ Ellis, and then you’ve got old-schoolers like Brian Foster, east-coast trail riders like Mark Mulville, it’s such an interesting mix. To tell you the truth, I don’t know, and that’s what I love about it. I think the course has a lot to offer each one of those riders. We’ll just let them do their thing and see what happens.