Tough Mudder’s grant money reduced

The state grant funding sought by Santa Rosa County to promote Tough Mudder Inc.’s military-style endurance event in April will be limited to about one-third of the requested $30,000.

“It’s based on the state funds we have available this year through Enterprise Florida and the other grant requests that we have,” said Lisa Osteen, director of marketing at the Florida Sports Foundation.

The Tallahassee-based nonprofit can provide in the range of $10,000 to $12,000 for Tough Mudder’s scheduled two-day event in Milton, about the same amount as it did last year for a one-day activity.

The state grant is part of a previously planned $110,000 incentive for Tough Mudder that includes $80,000 in Santa Rosa tourism taxes. That award was disputed as excessive by some members of the volunteer Tourist Development Council who doubt the economic impact value claimed in a report filed by Tough Mudder, a for-profit company based in New York City, after its event here last March.

Show us the visitors

Osteen said her foundation’s grant can be awarded only after the April event and requires a detailed report which verifies attendance of significant numbers of participants and spectators.

Tough Mudder’s study of last year’s event, paid for with $4,000 in tourist taxes, estimated the economic impact on Santa Rosa County at $6.1 million. But that report, generated at Tough Mudder’s direction by a San Diego State University faculty member, has been criticized by some area tourism industry leaders. They said that few Tough Mudder attendees stayed in Santa Rosa County hotels, and the company acknowledges that most of its enthusiasts from out of town checked into Escambia County lodging spots near Interstate 10.

Driving a soft bargain

Members of the TDC have requested a more thorough study after this April’s event. Some on the watchdog group have also chided county officials for their failure to negotiate the amount of Tough Mudder incentives.

The Navarre Press recently reported that communities in Georgia, Texas and Kentucky have hosted Tough Mudder events without the company requiring any tax dollars as incentives in return.

Tough Mudder officials have declined to respond to Navarre Press questions about whether the company would stage its event in Santa Rosa County without being paid to come here.

But when a Tough Mudder spokeswoman in New York learned from a reporter this week that the state grant for its activity here in April has been reduced, she said the company wouldn’t cancel its plans: “We’ll be there.”

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Spence Tough Mudder photo

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