Countless spotlights illuminated the downtown set of NBC’s American Ninja Warrior late into Sunday night and the early hours of Monday morning as contestants battled the obstacle course set up along a portion of Dolorosa Street between the Bexar County Courthouse and Main Plaza.

Hundreds of people gathered around the massive course to watch the taping of the reality competition show beginning Sunday evening. Most were still there into Monday’s wee hours.

Muscular men and women warmed up by hanging one-armed from parts of the set, lifting weights, doing pull-ups with training partners clinging to their waists, and chatting with family members and spectators as they awaited their turn to tackle the brutal course that sent many competitors into a pool of water.

For many, waiting was the dominant theme of the night.

“We have to wait until it’s totally dark out,” said San Antonio resident and Ninja Warrior phenom Kacy Catanzaro, the first woman to ever qualify for the finals on the show. “We’ll be here until the sun comes up.”

The waiting included a 12:30 a.m. meal break for crew members, after which it was back to work for the competitors waiting for their turn. Many passed the time by napping on athletic mats.

Catanzaro, better known as “Mighty Kacy” to her fans, was one of more than 100 athletes vying for a spot in the Top 30 in order to advance to the second day of competition, slated to air in late June.

Ninja Warrior veteran Kacy Catanzaro warms up before her run on the obstacle course.
Ninja Warrior veteran Kacy Catanzaro warms up before her run on the obstacle course. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

The 4-foot-11 former gymnast is now in her fifth season of American Ninja Warrior, having competed in Venice Beach, Calif.; Dallas; Houston; Oklahoma City; and San Antonio.

“I grew up in New Jersey, but I’ve been in San Antonio for four years,” Catanzaro told the Rivard Report as she walked her dog Mogley.

A group of athletes who hadn’t been preselected to appear on the show stood in line Sunday afternoon for a chance to prove themselves. For a few lucky walk-ons, the dream of being part of the popular reality TV show became, well, reality.

The atmosphere around the course was electric. The crowd feverishly followed athletes’ journeys across jungle-gym like contraptions that demand the highest form of strength, agility, mobility, and endurance. Cheers and gasps alike were heard throughout downtown each time a competitor tackled or stumbled on one of the obstacles.

San Antonio is one of six cities chosen as a location for Season 9 of the action-packed TV show that is said to draw around 7 million viewers per episode. The eye-catching backdrop of the historic Bexar County Courthouse, favorable weather conditions, absence of power lines and similar obstructions to filming, and ability to close roads around the course, among other factors, helped make San Antonio an attractive shooting location.

The City’s Department of Arts and Culture collaborated with show producers to fulfill its goals of being a “film-friendly city” and bringing the 10-day shoot, which is estimated to make an economic impact of $3.5 million, to downtown.

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Hanna Oberhofer

Before moving to San Antonio in 2004, Hanna was a competitive rhythmic gymnast in her native Austria. She earned degrees from St. Mary’s University and the Texas State Graduate College before joining...

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Scott Ball

Scott Ball is San Antonio Report's photo editor and grew up in San Antonio.