When Rob Kingwill stands atop the 100-foot ramp of snow extending from the floor to the ceiling of the Great Western Forum tonight, he'll look around and get that wonderful feeling that accompanies the realization of a dream.
"I've always wanted snowboarding to go the way of the monster truck rally," said the 25-year-old from Jackson Hole, Wyo., and one of the world's top 24 snowboarders competing in the Nike ACG Indoor. "Put it inside some arena in a big city, with Eminem booming in the background and thousands of people staring at you. It'll be a party. It's going to go off."
When Kier Dillion, the 1999 American Snowboarding Tour champion from East Stroudsburg, Pa., reaches the same pinnacle, it will also be "a dream come true" for him . . . but his vision extends beyond the party at hand.
"It's going to be so awesome," he said. "This event will be in an inner-city area, where normal people can come and watch and get turned on to the sport. This sport is so white and this is the kind of thing that will get the sport more into the mainstream, get more people exposed. It's like what they're trying to do with Gotcha Glacier."
Gotcha Glacier is a proposed $130-million indoor sports center to be built in the parking lot of Edison Field that will include indoor snowboarding, wave pools, rock climbing and skateboarding, as well as stores and restaurants. After repeated delays, construction is set to begin Nov. 30.
Dillion says Gotcha Glacier and other indoor snowboarding venues will eventually change the color of the sport, but today it is Inglewood, not Anaheim, that will have the honor of hosting the first indoor snowboarding competition in America.
And future promoters will have to dig deep to beat tonight's record $75,000 purse--which includes $32,000 and a Mitsubishi Montero Sport truck for the winner--the largest ever for a quarter-pipe event in the United States.
A quarter-pipe competition means athletes will plummet down the ramp, rocket across a 30-foot flat section and onto a 25-foot-high curved wall that will propel them straight up to heights of 40 feet above the arena floor. Once airborne, the snowboarders will perform spins and flips and twists before gravity takes over and they attempt to land safely.
Kingwill is not even a quarter-pipe specialist, but this event obviously has him pumped. Half-pipe competition consists of a series of tricks while traversing back and forth across the half pipe.
"In the half pipe, you have to step it back sometimes because you have to nail your run, top to bottom," Kingwill said. "So it'll be cool to have this kind of format where you just drill it, lay it down on the line, be like, 'I'm less afraid than you guys are tonight.' "
Moves such as the McTwist, an inverted aerial that includes 540-degree flip, and the 720 Air, a 720-degree spin, will be on display.
The judging format is based on originality of tricks, variety, style, height, aggressive energy and execution of tricks and landings. The first part of the competition will be a jam format, meaning all 24 competitors will make as many runs as possible in a 45-minute period with their top three scores deciding which eight make the finals.
"The format really allows you to go for it," Dillion said. "There's no reason not to risk it all. Do a double back flip if you can pull it. It's way better for the crowd. There'll be people falling and getting wrecked everywhere."
Sweden's Ingemar Backman, who is credited with the biggest air ever (25 feet) off the quarter pipe, may have to go higher tonight to hang on to his record.
"If they make this thing perfect, there's going to be some huge airs," Dillion said.
When you're building a 100-foot ramp over the seats of an arena, covering it and the floor with a protective covering followed by 80 tons of snow, and then carving out a quarter-pipe launch ramp, perfect is not a word you toss around lightly.
"Yes, there are lots of logistical nightmares," said Dan Hirsch of On Board Entertainment, a Huntington Beach firm that is in charge of constructing the facility. "We started building the ramp Tuesday and by [tonight], we'll have a crew of more than 200.
"We've put on outdoor quarter-pipe events in Denver, Texas and Northern California, but here the space is a lot more constricting."
Huge blocks of ice will be run through ice chippers and then blown onto the ramp and floor. Finally, crews with shovels and rakes will carve out the quarter pipe.
The event is more than a snow show, though. Live performances by Eminem, Kottonmouth Kings and Mixmaster Mike are also scheduled.
"They've been doing shows like these in Europe for a couple of years and they've been very successful," Hirsch said. "We're trying to take a little of that vibe and bring it to America. It's a party, a really fun atmosphere to watch the best snowboarders in the world perform."
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
Snow in September
A Huntington Beach firm is directing construction of a ramp that will be coated with 80 tons of snow, turning the Great Western Forum into a snowboarding haven tonight.
Breaking down a signature move
1. Snowboarder starts spin by turning left and flip by ducking head
2. Continues spin, flip while looking at ramp for orientation
3. Complete 540 degree turn and flip, lands face forward
BUILDING THE RAMP
300 pounds of ice are crushed via wood chipper and sprayed onto wooden structure
Workers shape ramp by scraping excess ice off with rakes, shovels
Graphics reporting by RAOUL RANOA / Los Angeles Times
* What: Nike ACG Indoor Quarter pipe competition and live performances by Eminem, Kottonmouth Kings and Mixmaster Mike
* When: Doors open 6:30, event starts at 7 tonight.
* Where: Great Western Forum
* Tickets: Available at Ticketmaster outlets and through http://www.ticketmaster.com
* Information: (310) 673-1300