Mike Kidd Is "BooKoo" For Arenacross - Dirt Rider Magazine

Josh Woods

Mike Kidd has done it again. This time he gave up a secure, comfortable living to risk it all and go racing. For the 52-year-old Texan promoter we could say it has paid off big time, but in the case of this story, it's paid off "BooKoo." Savvy motorcycle enthusiasts already know that Kidd, a 1998 inductee into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame, was the '81 AMA Grand National Dirt Track Champion, a title it took him 10 years to win. Those 10 years were filled with hard times when he was forced to start over after a bad injury, win a race and start over again. When he ultimately called it quits in '83, Kidd started all over again-this time in the promotions business. Instead of going with what he was good at, which was flat track, Kidd went indoors and kicked off an arenacross series. While it's debatable who actually promoted the first arenacross race, Kidd was the first to put together a series, keep points and award a championship number-one plate. Kidd's father was a promoter in the '60s and '70s and even held the occasional indoor race at Will Rogers Stadium, which used to be "barn number 8." But when young Mike got into the business, he went after a more specialized niche in the sport, seeing an opportunity nobody else did."Arenacross was an exciting sport, easy to put on TV, easy to sell tickets to and the thing has kind of blossomed," Kidd said. "One of things that I always knew as a racer was the first person who had to make money was the promoter. Without a promoter making money we'd have no racing. When I was racing, I did a lot of PR work for promoters, running around town doing interviews. I kind of learned what worked to put people in the stands. When I started promoting, I did the same thing. I'd grab one of the riders like Dennis Hawthorne, and we'd do a lot of PR." In '84, Kidd held the first round of his arenacross championship at the Fort Worth Convention Center, and for 20 years he watched the series grow into 12 rounds with 48 main events and riders who became stars from racing in this championship. In '97, Kidd partnered with Pace's Gary Becker, then the promoter of supercross. After several buyouts, the company that eventually owned the promoting rights to arenacross was Clear Channel Entertainment, now Live Nation. Becker was pushed out in '01 and Kidd was left in a situation he hadn't planned for. "When I sold in '97, for me to take the sport to the next level, I needed more than the three or four people I had in my office. When Gary left in '01, it appeared that there wasn't much interest from the upper hand of CCE for arenacross. Things that I wanted to do got turned down and I felt it was time to move on, so I left and joined forces with Advanstar on the motorcycle shows."Of course, before Kidd walked out the door he was slapped with a one-year noncompete contract stating that he wouldn't try to compete with the AMA Arenacross Series, which was then promoted by CCE. Mike walked away from it and took his spot at a desk inside Advanstar's Fort Worth, Texas, office. He stayed true to the agreement he signed. Not only did he not compete or start anything new, he kept quiet. But only for one year-because once the year was up, the press releases began flying.Mike Kidd was starting all over. He was going racing again. Kidd said he got the bug back in April '05 and approached Advanstar Communications about putting together an arenacross championship. His goal was to finally do it his way and tie the racing into a show like the media always talks about happening in the off-season European supercross races. Within two months of knocking on doors, Kidd was looking at an 11-race series with BooKoo Energy drink as a title sponsor and K&N; Filters and Toyota Truck on the top and bottom of the official series logo. There's one small kink in the story, though: Live Nation never stopped producing its AMA-sanctioned series and when the BooKoo Championship was announced, the folks in Aurora, Illinois, woke up and started burning through the toner trying to keep up with the press releases flying out of Fort Worth. Mike Kidd was ready for the battle."I'm actually competing against something that I created," Kidd said from his show office at the Charlotte, North Carolina, round of the series. "But I know pretty much all the aspects of what they're doing. We are not worried one bit about where they're going with arenacross because we've concentrated solely on what we're going to do. I think we will do a much better job of fine-tuning this than Clear Channel (Live Nation). To them, arenacross is a small piece of the puzzle. For us, it is our puzzle. It's our livelihood." Kidd may have engineered the formula and he never expected to be competing again his creation in a Frankenstein-like fashion, but he remains humble and positive-he relishes the competition and even said that the Live Nation series is better this year than it was last year: "They probably focused a little more this year because they have competition."

Travis Bannister

Calling All Riders

When starting any type of new program there are so many things that need to happen to make the machine run that figuring out where to begin is often the most difficult step. After securing backing and sponsorship, the next step was to lock down the talent-riders, that is. Kidd and his staff used the strong relationships they had built with the teams, owners and riders to lure the majority of the top talent of the sport. Even with the lack of an AMA sanction on the championship, the last former champion still racing arenacross, Josh Demuth, made the switch, as did longtime top contenders Tiger Lacey, Tommy Hofmaster, Shane Bess, Damien Plotts, Brad Hagseth and Jeff Willoh. Kidd has always had a good reputation with the athletes. So good that he says he's often been criticized for putting too much back into the riders' pockets. He says that's the point. "When I sold my series to Pace in '97, the purse was $25,000 with a $100,000 points fund. Their purse and point fund today is still the same. With our startup, we raised the weekly purse to $31,500 and a $150,000 point fund. We want to take care of our riders because our talent is our show and without a show we're not going to sell tickets." It should be noted that in '05/'06 Live Nation changed the format for arenacross, putting the emphasis (championship and money) on what used to be known as the 250 class, now the AMA Arenacross class. The Arenacross Lites (125cc class) is a support class. The BooKoo Championship continues to place equal weight on both classes, but they are named in terms of displacement, 250 Pro and 450 Pro.In addition to a higher purse and point fund, Kidd also waived the rider entry fees that have always been a mainstay in motorcycle racing at all levels in the United States. The $45 per class per night fee added up to just less than $2000 in savings by the end of the season. Small incentives such as that are what have kept guys like Tommy Hofmaster on the road. An eight-year veteran of the circuit, Hofmaster has built his career in arenacross despite offers to move up to the holy grail of supercross. His reason is unfinished business: He wants to win an arenacross title first. "I think it goes to show a lot for the arenacross riders, that we're working hard, too," he said. "It's a lot of racing and a lot of people don't look at it that way. We're racing two bikes and four main events a weekend. Eleven rounds equals 44 main events a year. That's a lot of racing if you look at it that way."Most of the riders don't have a whole lot to say about the fact that there are two arenacross series running simultaneously, with both championships pulling in decent crowds and top riders. Hofmaster likes two series because it has doubled the numbers of available jobs for the riders who would have been on the fence without support. He was a struggling privateer once himself. As for why he switched to the new series, he has definite reasons and plans. "I picked Mike Kidd's series because of sponsorship and who is helping out my team," Hofmaster said. "I had more selling power with the BooKoo series. No hard feelings with Live Nation and the AMA, they've helped me out over the years, but I had sponsors backing me to go the other way."Another rider who found success in arenacross in '05/'06 was Suzuki's Josh Woods. The Flint, Michigan, native has shown brilliance and speed in his short AMA supercross and motocross career but has also struggled with injuries. On Thursday, November 3, 2005, at 10:30 p.m., as he was getting ready to go to bed at his southern Georgia practice facility, Woods got a call from Cole Gress and Buddy Antunez. Gress runs the motocross support department at Suzuki while Antunez, of course, is the former five-time arenacross champion, turned team owner. His rider, Brad Hagseth, had broken his leg during press day. Antunez needed a teammate for Shane Bess. Woods and a friend loaded up his ragged-out RM-Z450 practice bike and drove from south Georgia to Fort Worth in time to make the 2:30 p.m. scheduled practice session the next day. Thirty-two hours and four main events later Woods was in a three-way tie for the championship point lead. With the weekend purse and Woods' sponsorship contingency money, he walked away with close to $10,000 in his pockets on a weekend whereas previously his biggest of plans was to mow the grass.For the first six rounds of the series, Woods and Demuth swapped the point lead, but during a practice session over the December holiday break, Woods aggravated a nagging injury in his back and bowed out of the BooKoo Championship. While Demuth struggled with his own injuries, he still maintained the point lead and won the eventual championship, his third, in true ironman fashion. Woods returned at the penultimate round of the series in Minneapolis and picked right back up where he left off, sweeping both main events on Saturday night. It didn't end with a title for the Suzuki rider, but he also didn't end his season empty-handed. "Based on my results in arenacross, I was able to get a ride with the Rockstar Suzuki team to race the Eastern Regional Supercross season," Woods said. " I don't know what I'd be doing right now. I didn't have a whole lot going for me. Most likely I'd be riding the AMA supercross class on a privateer bike. It was a blessing, for sure."The BooKoo race in Fort Worth wasn't Woods' first arenacross. As a young Team Green rider years ago he tried out a couple without much fanfare. But what was most impressive was his ability to get on pace with the regulars right out of the gate-especially after driving 16 hours to get there. "Growing up, I always had a small arenacross-style track in the backyard," Woods said. "But those guys have a little more experience than me and I still have more to learn. I knew I needed to back it down a little. In arenacross, taking a fifth isn't so bad because there are so many main events. It's important to be consistent. I'll use that to my advantage in the future. Now I have experience with both sides." Woods said he can't say for sure what his plans are for next season but he is interested in coming back to arenacross.

Damien Plotts

Just The Beginning

One thing Kidd made clear to his staff, the riders and the teams during the season was that this wasn't just a trial run and that he's committed to continue developing the BooKoo Arenacross Championship. Arenacross Manager Shane Schaefer, who worked for Kidd back in the Pace/Clear Channel days, said last season was just the beginning. The benchmark has been set, and it's time to continue improving. "We have a lot more flexibility now," Schaefer said in reference to the difference in operations of Kidd's series versus Live Nation's. "We run by the AMA rules, but we can make amendments and changes as needed. We're trying to make it the best for the racer, and to be honest, it doesn't matter if there is another series. We believe ours is far and above anything else that's out there, and we have big plans to change things for next year."As motorcyclist enthusiasts, it's easy to paint positive pictures when new opportunities and attention are brought to our sport. While having double the arenacross racing in one season seemed like a win-win situation, for Kidd it was nerve-racking at times in his quest to restart from scratch. In the first weekend of November '05, during the Fort Worth BooKoo opener, a NASCAR race was taking place just 17 miles up the road. That, in addition to unseasonably warm weather, hurt the attendance considerably. It wasn't until January '06 when the future began looking brighter for Kidd and crew. At round seven in Reading, Pennsylvania, the live show was delayed more than 30 minutes to let the several thousand walk-up ticket buyers make their way into the building. The Sovereign Center was nearly sold-out, and Kidd's blood was pumping. "This fits my personality and lifestyle and I enjoy it," Kidd said of the promotions business. "It's risky on the financial side, and it's basically legalized gambling. My adrenaline rush now is a sold-out house."Kidd's career has been one trial after another. Battling through his flat track days, he was a constant self-promoter, always jumping at the chance to do interviews with the media to help bring people to the race and sell tickets. While most racers saw their job objective as winning races and championships, Kidd knew he needed to sell tickets first and the money would make its way into his pocket eventually. In '79, he helped bring a unique sponsor to motorcycling when he signed a two-year deal with the U.S. Army to help finance his flat track efforts. Kidd has used those same techniques in his businesses today.The inaugural BooKoo Championship season is in the books and Kidd doesn't hesitate to start talking about the second season. He's quick to admit where they were strong and where they failed. In '07, he said they will shift some markets, add and subtract some rounds and/or cities and continue to move forward with the intended plan of putting on an exciting show. Although he's not concerned about being the official arenacross series of the AMA, he would like to have an AMA sanction in the future. Adding to his commitment to arenacross, halfway through the season Kidd acquired the rights to the BooKoo Championship from Advanstar and began promoting the series under his company, Mike Kidd Entertainment Group. He's also getting the band back together. Gary Becker is coming out of retirement to partner with Kidd again to promote arenacross and other motorsports events. "After four years of retirement, I've missed the sport and the people involved that really brought about a lot of passion for me," Becker said in a press release. "I'm ready to get back into the motor sports business, and I think Mike Kidd has a great start with the BooKoo Arenacross Series.""In a sense, people felt that Clear Channel (Live Nation) needed some competition," Kidd said. "We're not trying to compete against them, it just so happens that we're in the same business. I know how to do arenacross. I know how to sell tickets, this is what we enjoy doing and we're here to stay. I think next year we'll see some more elements, some more flash, We're going to fine-tune this series."

Josh Demuth

Champion's Quest
Josh Demuth wins his first and third arenacross championshipThe inaugural season of the BooKoo Arenacross Championship series was largely dominated by Josh Demuth, the last former champion of the sport. Demuth previously won two titles in the AMA Arenacross Series. In moving over to the new BooKoo Championship, he joined a competitive series that saw 10 different riders win main events. Since Demuth was a former champion, it was his title to win, and for six rounds he and Josh Woods battled back and forth in the points. But then Woods dropped out with a back injury. Shortly after the halfway mark of the season, with Woods out, Demuth had amassed a nearly 100-point lead but had also gathered a laundry list of nagging injuries that were minor enough to keep him going. With three rounds and 12 main events left to run, Demuth's results suffered. By that point in the season his injury list included: * Broke bone in his hand (round one) * Sprained ankle (round six) * Torn ligament in elbow (mountain biking accident)At round nine, the bad luck continued: Demuth sprained his thumb and injured his other arm, tearing a muscle in his bicep. He crashed out of Saturday's 250 main and posted a DNF in the 450 main. Two weeks later in Minneapolis, in practice, Demuth rebroke his hand and lacerated his face in a crash in which the handlebar went into his mouth. He finished out the night, scored some points and went to the hospital for surgery immediately afterward. One week later he scored enough points to wrap up the overall title on Friday night."I already had two of these championships but each title is a little bit different," Demuth said. "But this one is coming back from the injuries I had from the broken arms and broken legs in the last couple of years. There were a lot of naysayers who said I couldn't do it again after those 'career- ending' injuries. I wanted to prove a point to myself and to those people that I was a champion."I've pretty much done everything I wanted to do," he continued. "I'd like to win an outdoor championship, but I'm older now and I have a family to concentrate on now."