By PHIL ATTINGER Staff Writer
Mar 24, 2022
Tough Mudder competitors help each other out of a mud trench at one of many events each year, which was held last December in Highlands County as the first dual event with the Spartan Race. Total economic impact from that event, according to the Florida Sports Foundation was almost $2.3 million, with just less than $2.1 million impact from out-of-state visitors. COURTESY/SPARTAN — TOUGH MUDDER
SEBRING — The first time that Spartan Race/Tough Mudder held an event in Highlands County, it
brought in more than $2 million in economic impact return on a $90,000 local event grant, according to
state sports tourism officials.
The projected impact, according to the Florida Sports Foundation (FSF), which granted funds to help
defray the costs of the event, was just under $2.3 million — $2,299,641, said Sports Information
Coordinator Nick Gandy. The projected economic impact from out-of-state visitors is $2,096,147, Gandy
The Highlands County Tourist Development Council, marketed as “Visit Sebring,” tallied 13,000 racers as attending the Dec. 11-12 weekend — 9,600 of them participating in the Spartan Race alone — who
brought $157,211 in direct impact and taxes, $1,156,549 in hotel impact and $46,282 in tourist
development tax revenue.
The FSF awarded close to $48,000 in grant funds to the TDC for sports events happening from October to December last year, available as reimbursement to Visit Sebring. As a member of FSF, Visit Sebring can apply for grant funding for sporting events that the local agency has already approved for a county event grant.
In the case of the Spartan Race dual event, Visit Sebring lead marketer Casey Hartt said $40,819 would go toward the $90,000 that Visit Florida granted to the weekend event, which had been called the “Trifecta Weekend” for having a Sprint 5K, Super 10K and Beast 21K scheduled in one weekend.
In the 2020-21 fiscal year, Visit Sebring received nearly $16,000 in grant funds from FSF for four sports events, which is what the Foundation does.
“The objective of the Florida Sports Foundation grant program is to get people to come play in Florida,” Gandy said.
Gandy said Airstream Ventures, which in its contract with the TDC is serving in the role as the local sports commission, is one of FSF’s regular partners, and has helped arrange many successful events in other venues. Hartt said the TDC partnership with Airstream Ventures has secured a three-year commitment from Spartan to bring the event back to Lake Placid, Florida, in 2022 and 2023 with TDC grants of $90,000 per year.
Should the TDC continue to apply, would the FSF likely help defray that cost for the TDC for the future Trifecta Weekends?
“Certainly,” Gandy said. “Those are good numbers.”
He said state-level organizations and tourism officials look at return on investment to determine who gets funding, and he said last year’s Spartan/Tough Mudder event had one of the highest.
“Providing a $90,000 event grant was the largest grant the TDC has ever agreed to fund,” Hartt said, “so we were expecting a large return for our investment.”
Will she apply again with FSF?
“Every quarter, I apply for grants,” Hartt said, adding that FSF looks at the number of people coming from out-of-state as a determining factor.
Not only will the TDC bring back events, she said, it will add some.
“No matter what events we’re getting to the county, it helps the entire county,” Hartt said