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Wildwood ‘locks in’ as host city for 2018 Tough Mudder event

By: Mary Shapiro

Wildwood’s City Council voted 11 to 4 on Oct. 9 to approve legislation that creates an up to five-year community support agreement between the city and organizers of a Tough Mudder extreme obstacle and endurance course event that city officials said is now locked in to be hosted by Wildwood and held at Hidden Valley Ski Resort starting in August 2018.

“Tough Mudder organizers have told us that, if this agreement was approved tonight, Wildwood will be the site for the 2018 event,” said Julian Jacquin, the city’s economic development manager.

A Missouri site location for 2018 was set to be announced on Oct. 14 during the 2017 Missouri event in Sedalia. Wildwood had been among three cities – including Sedalia – considered for the 2018 event.

Councilmembers Jeff Levitt [Ward 7], Tammy Shea [Ward 3], Greg Stine [Ward 7] and Debra Smith McCutchen [Ward 5] were opposed. Councilmember Glen DeHart [Ward 1] was absent.

According to Jacquin and City Administrator Ryan Thomas, the city has been working with Hidden Valley to complete a proposal to host a Tough Mudder event, one of multiple events held nationwide. About 8,000 racers, plus up to 2,000 spectators, media and staff, are expected to attend the two-day event.

In voting to approve the contract, Councilmember Dave Bertolino [Ward 5] said, “This will be a good venue and opportunity for Wildwood. There are risks involved, but let’s take a risk. Hidden Valley is the largest employer in Wildwood, and it’s good to support them.”

But some councilmembers had concerns about the costs and obligations associated with the event that would fall to the city to provide.

Shea said she was concerned about plans for event staff, such as requiring 90 hotel room nights prior to the event, possibly outside of Wildwood.

“If Tough Mudder makes this a yearly event here, we’ll be committed to spending up to $100,000, when we don’t know the direct benefit of the event,” she said.“I don’t buy that this translates into a huge amount of money for Wildwood. Funding private events with taxpayer money is problematic – the business of municipal government isn’t to be supporting private entities at the scale we’ll be doing.”

Jacquin said an agreement had been made with the Wildwood Hotel to provide up to 90 staff room nights at a reduced cost of $90 per night, but Shea criticized that as “negotiating with a local business to take money out of their pocket.”

Additional items to be provided by the city for the event include fire/EMS services, police protection, waste management, portable toilets and parking shuttles. Thomas said the Metro West and Eureka fire protection districts have agreed to provide on-site emergency support. St. Louis County Police, who protect Wildwood under contract, also will not charge the city overtime for officers’ help with needs, such as traffic management, associated with the Tough Mudder event, Thomas said.

The full value of the local support to be provided to Tough Mudder is estimated at about $70,000 per year, of which up to $20,000 per year in direct funding from Wildwood has been proposed.

Councilmember Katie Dodwell [Ward 4], chair of the council’s economic development subcommittee, said that, “to get something, you need to spend a few dollars.” She suggested volunteers could help reduce the city’s costs.

During public participation, Mike Sedlak, president of the Wildwood Business Association, said his organization supported the efforts to bring a Tough Mudder event to Wildwood, saying it would help local companies.

Tim Jax, of Radcliffe Place Drive, said “a lot of good could come from the event, supporting local businesses like Hidden Valley – it will bring a lot of revenue to the city with minimal push on infrastructure.”

Councilmember Jerry Porter [Ward 6] said that “to spend $20,000 for the largest employer in the city is peanuts – this will bring money in and be a good thing to have.”

Jason Boyd, senior vice president of operations with Peak Resorts, which owns Hidden Valley, said the ski area provides the topography, access to chairlifts and snow-making system that could make a Tough Mudder event very successful.

“This event will bring in a lot of people from outside the region, from all over the country,” Boyd said.

But Smith McCutchen insisted that Tough Mudder is a for-profit business, and “we should use this $20,000 in tax money for what residents want – parks, trails and a recreation center.”

“It’s not government’s business to help companies make money,” she said.

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