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The Dirt on the U.S. Cellular Center’s Rodeo-Ready Transformation
Mike Mulligan had his steam shovel.
Mike McMurrin has his trusty trucks and skidloaders.
While the Cedar Rapids trucking service owner may not name his equipment as the character in the 1930s classic children’s story did, he still couldn’t do the job without them.
From 11 p.m. Wednesday through Thursday morning, McMurrin and crew worked through the night moving 1,300 tons of dirt into the U.S. Cellular Center in advance of the World’s Toughest Rodeo at the arena.
McMurrin has been the Cellular Center’s go-to dirt guy for almost a decade.
“I was just the lucky one, I guess,” he says.
Before the arena can fill with bucking broncos and cowboys in the instance of this weekend’s rodeo, or BMX bikes or monster trucks for those respective competitions, McMurrin packs the venue’s floor with 750 cubic yards of dirt.
It’s new dirt each time, McMurrin says. But it always comes from his land on Old River Road in southwest Cedar Rapids.
This time, before the crew could load the trucks full of dirt they had to unearth it from the blanket of snow left by the blizzard earlier that week. Once the pile was plowed, the dirt’s 4 mile trip from Mike McMurrin Trucking’s location to downtown could start around 11 p.m. Wednesday.
McMurrin prefers to load the dirt at night because “the traffic is next to nothing.”
“It seems to go so much smoother when nobody’s on the street – keeps things moving,” he said.
While the trucks went back and forth – totaling 84 truckloads to fill the floor – another team in skidloaders pushed the dirt across the arena, spreading, flattening and shaping the rodeo’s stage.
Less than 12 hours later, they were done.
But they’ll be back Saturday night. Once the rodeo is over, McMurrin and his crew will return to remove all the dirt as the Cellular Center prepares for it’s next stage-change: a Cedar Rapids Titans football game.
“We do pretty tight conversions all the time – one to the next show in 12 to 15 hours,” said Sarah Madalinski, U.S. Cellular Center marketing director. “They have it pretty much down to a science.”