Friday Feature: Mike Kidd

Mike Kidd is an interesting character, having done stints riding for Triumph, Lawwill/Roberts, and Honda’s flattrack team in AMA Grand National flattrack racing, and won the Grand National title in 1981 before retiring from racing in ’83. In 1985, he used some of his family’s experience with promoting events to create the original Arenacross series, which is now run by Live Nation, and labeled as the Toyota National Arenacross.

But in one of the more interesting developments of the ’05/’06 Arenacross calendar, there wasn¿t just a single season, but for the first time there were two competing series’ running at the same time. Mike and his crew came back to start a new series with a king-sized mouthful of a name¿the K&N presents BooKoo Arenacross Championship Series Brought to you by Toyota. That made things interesting for the manufacturers, fans, and riders, who now had two competing products to choose from.

We wanted to get Mike’s perspective on his return to promoting, how the season went, and what we can expect in the future.

How about a quick history lesson? How did Arenacross get started?

Let me start by saying my dad used to promote flat track races at Ross Downs located between Fort Worth and Dallas. This is the track that launched several racing careers; Freddie Spencer three-time World Road Race Champion, Bubba Shobert 3-time AMA Grand National Champion along with me winning the Grand National Title in ¿81.

When I retired from racing in 1983, it was only natural to use my contacts in the industry to become a promoter. My first Arenacross was a sold out event at the Fort Worth Convention Center in 1985. After the success of that one event, the following year I put together a five-race series sponsored by Bud Light, and then began expanding each year.

How did it end up with Pace/Clear Channel/Live Nation?

In 1996 we really took arenacross to a new level with a $100,000.00 point fund along with a new five-year TV deal on Speed. This grabbed a lot of attention from the entire industry because we matched the Supercross point fund and now arenacross had a TV deal. During that season I got a call from Gary Becker the CEO of Pace Motor Sports. He told me PACE had been watching the growth of arenacross and wanted to know if I would be interested in a partnership or selling. Rather than a partnership, I sold the PJ1 National Arenacross Series to PACE while keeping my staff and Fort Worth office intact. During my time at Clear Channel (1997-2004), PACE sold to SFX, then SFX to Clear Channel.

Why did you leave Clear Channel?

My time at Clear Channel wasn¿t bad, just stressful. We were creating new events and series every year to the point where we were up to over 100 events annually consisting of arenacross, flat track and road race. Stress had hit an all-time high and the fun was gone. I decided to move on.

You came back with Advanstar, what was the relationship there?

When I was Grand National Champion I made several appearances at their International Motorcycle Shows back in 1982. We became good friends and even the first race I promoted was held in conjunction with their show. Working together we launched the BooKoo Arenacross Series this past November, in conjunction with the International Motorcycle Show at the same venue where it all started 20 years earlier.

Now you’re out on your own again as Mike Kidd Entertainment Group.

Sounds like I pretty much came full circle.

What prompted that?

A few changes were going on at Advanstar and the opportunity to purchase the arenacross series became available in December, so I took it.

What’s the matter with you guys, giving the classes sensible names?

I guess you’re referring to Supercross or Arenacross with a Lites class. To be quite honest, when I heard Supercross and Lites I hateed it. It just did not sound like motocross classes at all. We have all grown up around dirt bikes with classes being named after the size of bikes in the class¿makes it simple¿and I like simple. So we went with 250cc and 450cc since that was the majority of bikes in those classes.

What were the highs and lows of your first season back?

Well we were a start-up series so we had plenty of highs and lows. For our first season I think we did extremely well in getting very supportive sponsors, industry support in the way of teams along with a record arenacross contingency program reaching almost $3 million dollars, record number of pro riders, super amateur turnout, great TV shows on the Outdoor Channel, with the best racing I have ever seen in arenacross. The lows would be attendance at some of our events. We were not on our mark in the media buying department. It did not take long into the series to know our agency was not up to par in buying media for arenacross. Towards the end of the season things really began to turn around for us, including a near sold out event at the series finals in Tulsa.

Now you’re also working with Gary Becker. How did that happen?

When the opportunity to buy the arenacross program from Advanstar came up, I called Gary.

Wasn’t he the guy who bought you out when you were doing the AX series?

Yes. Gary is not only a great guy, his vision for growth and improvement is right on.

Sometimes press releases are more interesting for what they don’t say than what they actually do say. In your recent press release, you alluded to some expansion plans. Can you talk about what you’ve got in the works?

We have a lot of opportunities we are researching. We know the BooKoo Arenacross Series will grow to 12 events and we are currently looking at other programs we can become involved with or create our own.

We’re not sure what’s more entertaining, watching a night of Arenacross, or watching two series duke it out. Is there room for both?

There is room for two arenacross series. However I believe over the next 2-3 years one of the series will be very dominant in the way of growth, sponsors, teams, TV package and the live production of the event itself. I believe in Arenacross, enjoy arenacross and I understand its place in the industry.