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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Hot Wheels Monster Trucks revving to race and glow in Spokane Arena, thanks in part to an Eastern Washington grad

The Mega Wrex flies over cars in an arena. Its strength (Tyrano teeth) and crash attack (dino bite) helped lead to his “motor-vation.” “So tough he avoided extinction,” Hot Wheels claims. Mega Wrex is just one of the Hot Wheels Monster Trucks that will take to the Spokane Arena floor on Saturday and Sunday.  (Courtesy of Hot Wheels and Mattel)

Spokane has become a hotspot for nationwide tours in recent years, and the Spokane Arena is preparing for another weekend of high-intensity competition and entertainment, this time with Hot Wheels Monster Trucks Live: Glow Party.

Hot Wheels Monster Trucks Live began in 2019. In fact, the company responsible for the collaborative creation with Mattel – Family Entertainment Live – is led by CEO, Ken Hudgens, a former student athlete at Eastern Washington University, who played basketball and graduated in 1987.

“I loved my time in Cheney,” Hudgens said. “Like I said, it’s cool for me and a full-circle moment to bring something like Hot Wheels Monster Trucks Live to the area I went to school.”

The organizers pride themselves on finding the best of the best in every category for this event: the monster trucks, the drivers, the emcee hosts.

There are also talented freestyle motocross athletes who perform high-difficulty tricks midair. There is even a “car-eating, fire-breathing robot.”

Kids tickets start at $10 and prices range from $25-60 for adults. There is also a pre-show called the Crash Zone where fans can get on the floor and meet the drivers and see the trucks, for $10 per person. There is also a special VIP ticket at $75 that includes a meet-and-greet, a tour and merchandise prior to the Crash Zone.

There are currently over 100 yearly shows, consisting of many shows in North America, but also some international shows. The Spokane Arena is expected to pack 20,000 total people this weekend.

While Hudgens would’ve liked to put on a show in Spokane sooner, he said it is difficult to create a tour route that works with all of the cities being a reasonable distance from each other.

“The hardest part is just connecting the dots on routing a tour – we want the arenas we play to be in some proximity to each other,” Hudgens said. “For example, we go from Spokane this weekend to Tacoma the following weekend. Making those dominoes all line up is hard. The easy part is entertaining the fans – we have a great show.”

It is clear that having a show in Spokane means something more to Hudgens.

“For the company, we have always loved playing the Pacific Northwest – and to finally book a date at Spokane Arena is special for me,” Hudgens said. “I played in the old Spokane Arena. Amazing to be back in the new one.”

Hudgens said he is passionate about the importance of holding this event in an arena-like venue.

“I love presenting the event in an arena format,” Hudgens said. “Kids and families get to see everything up close, and it’s an interactive show.”

The entire show is glow-in-the-dark, including the arena and the trucks.

“Mattel had a toy that glowed in the dark – so we all got to thinking it would be cool to not only make the trucks glow – but the whole arena glow too,” Hudgens said. “It’s an awesome experience.”

Hot Wheels is no stranger to monster trucks, as they have been manufacturing them and affiliating themselves with Monster Jam since the 1990s. Hudgens and his company have been working with Mattel for years and they finally discovered the perfect format for a live event.

“I wanted to create a show that appealed to younger kids – kids who were experiencing their first monster truck show, and first time in an arena, all while giving them an authentic Hot Wheels experience,” Hudgens said. “We have grown the tour, and tried to evolve the show along the way so we reach more fans – and give them more of what they want.”

Hudgens said having a diverse variety of family shows is essential for the local market to succeed. Clearly for an event like this, catering to the interests of younger people can be used to the advantage of the event organizers.

“Something for everyone, right? It means everything to me,” Hudgens said. “This isn’t just a job – it’s my life’s work. Giving people a place to come together, forget about life for a while and just enjoy family time at an event they love – it’s hard to get better than that.”

Liam Bradford's reporting is part of the Teen Journalism Institute, funded by Bank of America with support from the Innovia Foundation.