This month, we caught up with the man behind one of the hottest innovations in sports entertainment. That’s Ricky Dennis, founder of Arena Racing USA.
This exciting, family-friendly racing features half-scale stock cars whipping around a high-banked racetrack inside the Richmond Coliseum.
Born into a racing family in Short Pump back in the era when “anyone from that part of town was called a redneck for living out by the dump,” Ricky says the idea for arena racing came to him while watching a minor league hockey game. What’s truly innovative is that race lovers can only experience this kind of entertainment in Richmond – for now at least.
“When I say that RVA is the only place in the world that arena racing is taking place, folks are really surprised,” says Ricky, a former stock car racer and chassis builder and son of Bill Dennis, 1970 NASCAR Rookie of the Year. “Most people think it’s a franchise we bought.”
Richmond-based Arena Racing USA is genuine auto racing, made fan- and family-friendly, with shorter races, music, and contests, and according to Ricky, “just enough noise to help create the racing atmosphere.” (Translation: You won’t need earplugs, and you can still talk to your kids during races!) The cars circle the hockey rink-sized track at speeds close to fifty mph, traveling two and three across, for all of the bumping, crashing, and even flipping, normally associated with stock car races.
A father of three, ages 14, 16, and 21, Ricky says one of the best things about being in the sports and promotion business is connecting with kids and the community.
“We have created something that appeals to all generations and kids especially, and it enhances kids’ ability to learn through racing,” Ricky said.
Ricky says the events at the Coliseum have opened the door for fundraising for schools, churches, and nonprofits in Richmond. “It has been rewarding to see kids become part of our shows by saying the Pledge of Allegiance or by singing the National Anthem as a group,” Ricky says.
To learn more about sports innovator, businessman, and father Ricky Dennis, keep reading.
Mountains or beach?
Beach. It’s just hard to beat the relaxation that the water brings, and my kids are partial to it too, so it’s a win/win there.
Dogs or cats?
Dogs – they give unconditional love at all times!
What book is on your nightstand right now?
Actually it’s my Bible that I have neglected recently for having total focus on planning for this season of Arena Racing USA. And I need to get that priority back.
If you were stranded on a desert island, what food would you want to grow on trees?
Reese’s Cups. What else would anyone want? As long as kiwi was already there!
Same island – what’s the one tech gadget you would want with you?
My iPad – and a solar battery, of course.
Favorite Richmond restaurant for the whole family?
Cheesecake Factory. It’s hard for everyone to not be happy when you get your own choice of cheesecake for dessert.
What is your favorite way to spend a rainy Sunday?
On the sofa watching movies with loved ones, if I can make myself chill out! But I have to be away from home to do that because there is always something that needs to be done if not.
What is your favorite vacation spot?
The next place I go! I really like going someplace new when it’s possible.
What is your energy source?
My energy source is knowing that we are so close to doing almost everything right with Arena Racing. We are on the verge of creating something really cool, a new sport – and we can say it was born right here in RVA.