Inside the Spartan Race Emerald City Open

By Michael J. Solender, October 4, 2017

Spartan Race excels in tapping into the zeitgeist of self-motivated warriors. Athletes find physical, emotional and even spiritual nourishment through competing in extreme obstacles (think: fire pits, vertical walls and muddy terrain with belly crawls under barbed wire) course racing.

Along the way, the global events operator crafted an impressive sports-tourism success formula by developing strong partnerships with host communities, suppliers and vendors. Spartan Race events regularly attract thousands of people to their venues, creating winners not only at the course, but in the local host communities, where the economic impact is measured in the millions of dollars.

Come race day, the efforts of organizers, participants and tourism officials intersect to make these events special. Here’s the perspective from each side of the Emerald City Open (part of Spartan’s U.S. Championship Series) in April presented by Snohomish County, Washington, at the Meadow Wood Equestrian Center in Snohomish.

Mike Morris
Vice President of Production, Spartan Race

Spartan Race Mike MorrisMike Morris say he’s seen how the organization’s mission of “changing lives by getting people off the couch and providing a medium to get out and complete an obstacle course” is more than a saying.

“The brand has extended beyond races we conduct to include training certifications, coaching and international competitions,” Morris says. “At the core, though, it’s our race series that attracts most of our customers and brings people to our different venues.”

By the end of 2017, Spartan Race will have held 62 event weekends domestically and more than 100 races internationally. Various race products accommodate different ability levels and interests.

“The Seattle Super and Sprint [Emerald City Open] is fairly typical of our weekend events,” Morris says. “The weekend was special in that it was the first event of our U.S. Championship Series. We did a live-stream broadcast online with 500,000 viewers and videotaped for an upcoming televised airing on NBC.” Morris reports 8,000 racers and 3,000 spectators attended.

In selecting a site, Morris looks to CVBs and tourism partners for help in finding a great venue that makes operational sense. Spartan is looking to maximize efforts with economics (securing grants and funding options) and resources such as parking, traffic control, day labor and permitting.

“Spartan believes in a long-term mutually beneficial relationship with communities,” Morris says. “We want to be in town for multiple years. We know our event is just as important for the neighbor down the road to have a pleasant experience as for the thousands of racers, local hotels and restaurants.”

The belief is that what a local community considers a win will be viewed similarly by Spartan. “We know we need local support on the economics front to make our events successful,” he says. “In return, we bring in millions of dollars in revenue.”

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