Flagler County will provide $25,000 in tourism event funding for the Spartan Race planned for November of next year at the Cracker Ranch in southern Flagler County.
The County Commission voted unanimously at a Dec. 7 meeting to approve the funding for the obstacle course race, which was moved to the Cracker Ranch after its original planned location — Princess Place Preserve — led to an outcry from residents concerned about its environmental impact after the local online news source FlaglerLive.com ran a news story and an opinion column about it. The race date was also moved back, from March of 2016 to November 2016.
But despite the fact that both the date of the race and its venue have changed since the county's Tourist Development Council last heard about it, the event did not appear before the TDC again for approval before the County Commission's vote, something County Commissioner Charlie Ericksen brought up during the commission meeting.
"I noticed that ... the TDC itself, I don't know if they had to, but they did not reconsider the new location or anything else that's come up on this. Is there a reason for that?" Ericksen said. "As far as I can see, TDC did not see this new location."
It hadn't, County Administrator Craig Coffey said. But Coffey said that wasn't unusual.
"They don't review any locations," he said. "We've never done that for any events. The Board of County Commissioners has never reviewed any locations, how the police are handled, how fire's handled, where the runners' parking happened. TDC only approves funding. And that's what we're bringing you today with this (agenda) item; it's just a funding request to support a large event."
Coffey noted that the event will now be held on private land, not county land, and that the county has a year to plan for fire, police and emergency medical services issues.
"TDC is just advisory on the funding only," he said. "They don't say, 'This is a good place (or) bad place for soccer, for lacrosse, for cribbage — any of that stuff."
"So where then does the planning of the event get reviewed by our county?" Commissioner Barbara Revels asked.
"If it's at our facility, we review any events whether it's TDC or not," Coffey said. "We have a special event process, we review them and bring police and fire and EMS together if it's on our property we'll bring appropriate parks people ... if we go down the special process where we review every venue for every event, we will be at a competitive disadvantage with every TDC service in the state."
Coffey said Spartan will pay for law enforcement and emergency services at the site, and might use a private medical company.
The proposed Spartan Race is expected to bring in about 6,000 competitors. The Cracker Ranch, a location off of U.S.1 in southern Flagler which been used for four-wheeling in the past, has had events that have drawn 2,000 people, Coffey said. Although the Spartan event will be much larger, the county has "worked through the details to increase the areas that we have to work with," Coffey said at the meeting.
Coffey said the obstacles proposed for the Cracker Ranch location are more intensive than those that had been proposed for Princess Place.
Coffey has said in previous interviews with The Palm Coast Observer that the overall economic impact of the Spartan Race is expected to be about $3.9 million, with a direct visitor spending impact of $2.38 million.