Up-and-coming professional BMX rider and Michigan native Tyler Fernengel is the last professional athlete to perform inside the famed Silverdome — former home of the Detroit Lions, Wrestlemania III (and scene of Hulk Hogan's epic bodyslam of Andre the Giant), Supercross and World Cup soccer games before the stadium was shut down for good just a few years ago.
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Watch the video below to see Fernengel session the abandoned halls of the famous stadium that have become a stunning, modern-day backdrop of natural destruction.
We caught up with Fernengel to talk about his amazing session inside the Silverdome.
RedBull.com: Growing up in Detroit, can you remember the first time you visited the Silverdome?
Tyler Fernengel: I was 3 years old. And I had just gotten my first dirt bike. It may have been the first race I ever did — my dad entered me in the amateur Supercross races held at the Silverdome. Amateurs would compete the day before the pro Supercross. I raced there every year until I was 10 years old.
More: Exclusive photos of Fernengel's Silverdome session
So moto was your first focus?
I always had a BMX my whole life, but it was never serious. That was actually the deal I had with my dad to get a motocross bike. I had to do a wheelie [on my BMX] all the way down the street. So I had to take my training wheels off and learn how to wheelie the whole street and then once I did that, my dad got me the dirt bike.
The last time I was inside the Silverdome was nine years ago.
When did you start taking BMX more serious than moto?
I’d always hit little dirt jumps at the motocross tracks, but that was it on the bicycle. But when I was around 12 to 14 years old, motocross started to slow down because we couldn’t really afford it anymore. Then I think at about 14, I couldn’t do it at all — motocross was completely out of my life. So BMX was honestly the next best thing to motocross — I started going to the skatepark every day.
With the stadium closed for years, what did it feel like to return to an empty Silverdome?
The last time I was inside the Silverdome was nine years ago — at the last amateur Supercross race I attended when I was 10. When I showed up to scope for the shoot, so many memories were coming back. Just sitting in the tunnel — where you come out on the track and where the players would run out — I remembered sitting there, years ago, with my dad and all the other kids. It brought back a lot of good memories. Being out on the field, it was crazy to think that there once was a motorcycle track there, every year, with all the fans, but now it’s nowhere near the same — it’s like a war zone.
I had called out the 360-barspin, but I wasn’t even sure it was possible.
What was the craziest thing you saw inside the closed Silverdome?
Just seeing the suites — stuff I never got the chance to experience — and they are completely rundown. All that stuff cost so much money once and it is now completely worthless. It’s just passed its time …
The holy shit move of the video is definitely the 360-barspin from the club/patio level down to the stadium floor — did you have it planned the whole time?
When I went to scope the location in January, I sort of called out all these moves. I really didn’t think much of them. But when I showed up to film, that was a big reality check — there was the whole film crew there and I saw how much work has went into it. I had to step back and think, “Whoa, this is happening and it’s all for me.” There was so much hard work and time put into the whole project. … Obviously, I don’t have to do anything I’m not comfortable doing, but in my own mind I kinda feel obligated to give it a try.
I honestly started doubting myself, but ... I felt I had to at least try it and see what happens.
Tell us about the first time you tried it.
I straight-jumped it, my feet blew off [the pedals], my tires went so flat and my bars moved — it was just so much more impact than I expected. I had called out the 360-barspin, but I wasn’t even sure it was possible. ... I honestly started doubting myself, but like I said, I felt I had to at least try it and see what happens.
And you crashed?
It all happened so fast — I just remember slamming and rolling toward the chairs. ... I hit a metal upright with my ribs and just came to a complete stop. I started making that crazy noise when you get the wind knocked out of you, sounded like a zombie. I pretty much impaled myself on a metal upright, but I was all right — cut myself pretty good and bruised my ribs.
How did you get up and reapproach after such a scary crash?
Normally, I want to get right back up from a crash and try it again — but lunch came and I took about a 20-minute break, which is not the thing you’d normally want to do. When all the adrenaline is flowing, you gotta take advantage of it. So it took me awhile to build up the confidence to go for it again.
The second try, I landed perfect but the impact was so heavy. Both my feet blew off and smashed into the wood. I bruised my heels and my ankles were just done.
After that, I was just sick of it. I was like, “I have to do this.” So I grabbed my bike and literally ran up and within five minutes just went for it. As you can see from the photo, my tires were compressed and I was hanging off the side of the bike. I barely pulled it.
You put together some interesting moves with the film crew inside the hallways, seating area and even on the roof — what were you able to find to ride?
The 30-second line was the most fun thing to film — that’s exactly what I do when I’m out filming with my friends, just trying to put together long lines with grinds and stuff, you know. It was so much fun filming with the crew. They were on a golf cart and we were trying to time everything perfectly. It was something completely different than I’ve ever filmed. They were so pumped on how we were filming it and I was, too.
Any other iconic Detroit landmarks you’d like to shut down?
My first magazine cover was a shot of me rolling in on the fountain in the middle of Hart Plaza in Detroit. I know they just had the Hart Lines event there, and there are so many buildings in the area, I’d love to have my own BMX contest.
Want to see the Fernengel Silverdome edit in stunning high-definition? Watch in 4K resolution on Red Bull's YouTube channel.
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