One of the greatest aspects of a sporting event like American Ninja Warrior is experiencing it first hand. Nothing gets the adrenaline flowing quite like knowing you and a few thousand strangers all believe in the same Ninja.
But being an audience member is no simple task. You could be on set for hours. You could be waiting just outside the set for hours. The camera needs fresh energy for every run, so the audience will be periodically changed as the night goes on to guarantee maximum energy.
But once you get in there, you're going to have the experience of a lifetime.
Here's a helpful primer on being an American Ninja Warrior audience member from scoring tickets to what to expect.
How to get tickets
Getting to be an audience member for American Ninja Warrior happens in a couple of main ways.
- You're friends or family of a Ninja.
- You've managed to land one of the tickets that get distributed.
You can sign up on sites like On-Camera Audiences.Com to be notified of upcoming opportunities.
If you know American Ninja Warrior is coming to town, pay close attention to your local media sources (newspaper, radio stations, TV). Chances are these outlets will A) have been invited to the show and B) might have been allocated tickets to give out.
When to arrive
This is tough decision because of how long the tapings go for (It's all night. Sun down to sun up is common). So your instinct might be to show up a little later once the action is underway. However, if you want to be guaranteed a seat for the night, be there bright and early. Production usually suggests being in the audience line by 7 pm at the latest. Seating is first come, first served, so once the bleachers are filled, you'll need to stand. Once the standing areas are filled, you'll be waiting in line outside until enough people leave.
But don't lose hope if you are stuck in line! The night wears people down. Once they've seen their Ninja of choice take the course, a lot of audience members start trickling out. The production team will then bring in more members to fill the empty spots.
A big shift change usually happens when the filming stops for "lunch" around 12:30 or 1 am. There's a break in the action. People realize how tired they are, and a lot of them use this as a chance to head out.
From our experience, it seems like everyone who waits in the audience line generally gets in at some point. But it could be at 3 am if you're not careful.
What to bring
Got a tender tushie? Bring a seat cushion. The bleachers are very basic and you don't want to get up and move around too much if you're staying longer. Production will fill your seat pretty quickly if you vacate it while they're filming. So bring something you'll be comfortable sitting on.
Small snacks are another good idea. You don't want to plan a picnic and have a whole meal laid out, but some small items you can discreetly eat to keep your energy up are going to be helpful.
Bringing kids? Bring something to entertain them between runs. With a show like American Ninja Warrior, delays can happen. If they need to fix or adjust an obstacle, you'll be sitting and staring at nothing for a little bit. Kids can get antsy, so be prepared to distract them.
Also for the kids, bring a little blanket or pillow if they do start to lose energy. We've seen too many little ones crashed out cold on the laps of excited parents, poor faces all smushed up uncomfortably. Let them sleep a little bit if they're trying to wait for their Ninja hero to run!
Some spending cash. There’s an onsite merch tent for all your souvenir needs.
What to wear
Check the weather and dress accordingly! Layers are key. Even if it's been a warm day, things can get chilly in the wee morning hours. You'll want to be able to put on more to stay warm if you need it.
Rain gear is helpful if bad weather is expected. If it's just drizzling, the runs will keep going, and you'll get damp. If it rains hard enough to delay shooting, the production will move the audience to some place under cover (like a parking garage) but you'll get soaked on the way there as they won't move you until it's totally necessary.
But do know that the crew has plans in place for any kind of weather, and safety is key. You won't be left sitting next to a giant metal course in a thunderstorm, or to fend for yourself in case of a tornado. (We're looking at you, Oklahoma City.)
Do not wear visible logos! You'll be warned about this once you get to set, but just don't do it. The crew can place tape over small logos, but it's best not to risk having your clothes damaged. They won't allow any visible logos to be captured on camera.
Where to sit
This is a personal choice. If you're at the start of the course, you'll see every Ninja and lots of action, but you'll miss the dramatic moments that happen farther down the course.
If seeing the Warped Wall is important to you, do sit there. It's worth it to celebrate those epic moments. Just plan that those moments may have long delays between depending on how the runs are going. There are TVs along the course so you can see what's happening, but it's still not quite as much fun as seeing it in person.
The main rule you're going to hear is no photography. The show is taped several weeks before it airs, so you're getting a sneak peek. You'll see the new obstacles and know which Ninjas advanced. Production is very sensitive to keeping this under wraps. If they see you taking photos, you'll be warned. If you continue and they catch you, there is a chance they'll confiscate your phone or camera. Be a good Ninja citizen and don't ruin it for everyone else.
Don't expect your seat to be held. If you get up, you're creating a vacant spot on the show. That doesn't look good. So pee quickly, and have a friend hold your seat. The crew won't help you secure your spot if someone fills it while you're gone.
What to expect
Expect that you're going to have a great time! There's nothing like seeing the show come together before your eyes. You'll see the bright lights. You'll scream in support of Ninjas. It's a lot of fun and you'll probably bond with the other audience members around you.
Matt and Akbar usually make a point to say hi a few times during the night, so if you're sitting towards the front of the bleachers, there's a good chance you can score a high-five.
You are going to be on camera, so the crew will make sure to hype you up! They need to record "crowd shots" to use during the show, so at various points you'll be asked to cheer like your favorite Ninja just hit the buzzer, or to moan in disappointment as if they fell. One very confident crew member even acts it out for you. So it's a fun little acting lesson for everyone. Just go with it.
There will be a crew and staff break at some point during the night. It usually happens around 12:30 am. You'll see everyone filing away to enjoy a quick meal. The break is around 30 minutes long and nothing happens during that time. It's a good time to leave if you're done for the night, or take a quick bathroom break if you want to stay.
Do expect that the bathrooms will be porta-potties. There's no Hollywood glamour happening there.
Just be patient. If there's a delay, know that everyone in production and on the crew is working on it. You don't need to ask them over and over what's going on. They're busy fixing it and they'll make an announcement if there's anything you need to know.
Relax and enjoy! It's a rare experience for most of us to see a huge network TV show come together. It's a long night, but it's a very special one. Take it all in.
Don't be shy if you see a Ninja! They love their fans. They really, really do. If you can catch their eye, say hi. Wish them luck. Ask for an autograph. You'll be shocked at how happy they are to talk to you.