The Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series is expecting to welcome back fans — and to the pits — when the 2021 season begins Jan. 16 in Houston, Texas – the first time in 25 years that Supercross will open outside California.
In unveiling a 17-race schedule Tuesday (with details for four race still to be announced), Feld Entertainment senior director of two-wheel operations Dave Prater said the series’ six confirmed stadiums are approved for crowds currently at 20 to 25 percent capacity (with the potential for increasing).
Though the series still is working with epidemiologists on safety protocols for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, masks would be mandatory for fans, who also would be cordoned off from the “bubble” environment in which riders and teams would operate.
“Our intent is to open the pits and (sponsor) activation area to fans,” Prater said. “Obviously, that would be a modified experience. We want to keep the bubble we’re working in separate, but we will allow fans into the pits during the 12-6 p.m. timeframe.”
Prater said Supercross still is working through how to test riders and teams for COVID-19 after mandating testing on initial entry to its Salt Lake City, Utah, bubble for the final seven races this year (which concluded June 19 with Eli Tomac’s first championship).
“There will be (COVID-19) testing, we’re just still working on what works given the venues and cities we’re racing and the timeframe we’ll be there,” he said.
After ending the 2020 season with seven consecutive events at Rice-Eccles Stadium, Supercross will carry over several concepts – such as midweek races and multiple consecutive rounds in one city — to its 2021 schedule, which will open with three races in eight days at NRG Stadium.
Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, and AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, all would play host to Saturday-Tuesday race combinations, building off the Sunday-Wednesday-Sunday schedule that was well-received in Salt Lake City last year.
The series also will make its annual visit to Daytona International Speedway on March 6.
The last five rounds, including the Round 17 season finale at Rice-Eccles Stadium, will happen after Easter (April 4) but haven’t been assigned dates. Prater said it’s possible that Rounds 13 through 16 also could be run in Salt Lake City.
“I think things will start to get better and at the very least, we’ll have multiple stadiums after Easter,” Prater said. “I don’t know how many yet. If there are stadiums where the capacity opens up enough to make it viable.”
For a single Supercross event, a stadium would need to be at 50 to 60 percent capacity because of costs, said Prater, who noted the series is “definitely going to be taking a hit financially” again next year after the pandemic forced a reduction in purse money last year.
Prater said Supercross chose its first four venues because they also have NFL teams that have been working toward having limited crowds.
That’s been a major snag for its California venues, which are used primarily for baseball.
“Obviously we love Anaheim, and Angel Stadium has been a great partner,” Prater said. “They were disappointed, but they understand completely. Anaheim, Petco Park (in San Diego), Oakland are all baseball stadiums. Major League Baseball basically was taking the stance that up until the postseason, they weren’t going to entertain having fans at all.
“Up until recently, Angel Stadium, Petco and Oakland couldn’t really talk to us about what was going to happen because they didn’t know. I’m optimistic, but who knows. California could slide into April if it opens up, but that remains to be seen.”
Other notable items from Prater’s 45-minute news conference Tuesday:
–Because the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship is slated to start in the third week of May, the Supercross season finale will happen no later than May 8.
–No times were announced for any of the events, and it’s likely the preponderance of Tuesday races could mean more daytime starts. Prater said at least two of the first 12 rounds are “a little earlier” on preliminary schedules as Supercross works with NBC Sports Group to firm up a broadcast lineup.
–Tracks will alter layouts between events with “some aggressive changes,” Prater said. “From what we learned in Salt Lake City (which used seven layouts), we’re comfortable with that. Fans can be rest assured if they come to Saturday’s race and then come to Tuesday, it’ll be a completely different track, even more so than Salt Lake City.”
–Supercross is owned by Feld Entertainment, which held its first Monster Jam event with fans since the pandemic last weekend. Prater said a crowd of roughly 30,000 attended over the two-day show in Arlington, Texas.
“We’ve done a few surveys, and over 80 percent were eager to get back to Supercross and Monster Jam,” he said. “They obviously want safety protocols in place, and we’re continuing to work through that plan.”
Supercross 2021 schedule
–Saturday, Jan. 16: Houston, Texas
–Tuesday, Jan. 19: Houston, Texas
–Saturday, Jan. 23: Houston, Texas
–Saturday, Jan. 30: Indianapolis, Indiana
–Tuesday, Feb. 2: Indianapolis, Indiana
–Saturday, Feb. 20: Glendale, Arizona
–Tuesday, Feb. 23: Glendale Arizona
–Saturday, Feb. 27: Glendale, Arizona
–Saturday, March 6: Daytona Beach, Florida
–Saturday, March 20: Arlington, Texas
–Tuesday, March 23: Arlington, Texas
–Saturday, March 27: Arlington, Texas
–Round 13: TBA
–Round 14: TBA
–Round 15: TBA
–Round 16: TBA
—Date TBD: Salt Lake City, Utah,