The front rows of sections 214 and 215 inside U.S. Bank Stadium were full hours before the men below them would fly.
As the X Games moved indoors Friday, the massive MegaRamp took center stage, with towering beams peeking into the stadium's upper concourse and stretching longer than the football field it replaced.
Jacob Elkin, a 15-year-old fan from East Bethel, was drawn immediately to the giant structure. A couple of hours before what they call the "Big Air" BMX final, Elkin positioned himself nearly eye level with the 82-foot tall ramp.
"It's insane," Elkin said. "You've got to be nuts to do that."
If the massive drop wasn't dramatic enough, a giant rotating "X" and neon lights let fans know where skateboarders and bikers would emerge atop the ramp. The national anthem, played by trumpet, sounded over the loudspeakers just before the Big Air started with a short elevator trip bringing riders to the peak.
"I've always watched it on TV and it's a lot bigger than I thought it'd be," said Alex Rand, a fan from Blaine. "It's halfway to the roof of this thing and this stadium isn't small."
Riders often closed their eyes at the top, either envisioning their run or praying. Clad in armor — knee, elbow and back pads along with a helmet — they descended up to 40 miles per hour and soared over a 60-foot gap.
Those fortunate enough to land their first trick flew nearly as high as the second deck after hitting a hulking backstop. They're judged not only on the long gap jump, but what they do with the air off the ensuing quarterpipe.
Two-time reigning Big Air BMX champion Colton Satterfield didn't make it that far on his second attempt. Satterfield crashed after trying a front flip tailwhip over the mega gap and came up holding his shoulder. Fans applauded as Mykel Larrin got up after taking a hard fall onto his back when landing too far behind on his rear tire. Fellow rider Zack Warden was all smiles after wiping out on one of his runs, with only a little blood on his arm showing any vulnerability.
"You always have to respect it and always have to be somewhat scared of it," said BMX pro Chad Kagy, who did not compete this year because of to injuries. "If you don't have some level of fear walking onto that ramp, you shouldn't be on it."
American James Foster stole the show and the gold medal from Aussie rider Vince Byron. Foster and Byron traded the lead back and forth on their runs until Foster nailed a back flip with a triple tailwhip over the gap in his final — and winning — run. Foster, a two-time bronze medalist in Big Air, claimed his first X Games gold medal, with Byron taking home silver.
"I'm speechless. I have no words, man," Foster said. "I saw Vince take his run and I thought to myself, I can't beat that. But I'm going to try."
Many skateboarders didn't even reach the quarterpipe on two feet during the qualifier Friday afternoon.
It was no coincidence that Brazilian skateboarder Italo Penarrubia grabbed first place in the qualifiers ahead of Saturday's Big Air final. Penarrubia had moved in with skateboarding legend Bob Burnquist, who built his own MegaRamp in his backyard in California, when he moved to the United States in 2015.
That gave Penarrubia plenty of time to practice on 365-foot long ramp.
"I've become comfortable with it because it's in my backyard," Burnquist said. "But I've got a level of respect for it, because I have so much time on it and have slammed so many different ways. I've seen what can happen."
Riders and skaters migrate from around the world ahead of each Summer X Games to practice on Burnquist's MegaRamp. However, the ramp doesn't become crowded until a couple weeks before the games. There's little room for unnecessary risks here.
"It's not like they don't have access. It's maybe they don't want to touch it all the time," Burnquist said. "Because it's not a comfortable thing."
But it's a sight to behold.