There will be no pristine polo shirts in sight when thousands of athletes hit the back nine at Sunset Ridge Golf Links in Westbrook this August.
The golf course will be the site of the state’s first Tough Mudder, an obstacle course series that hosts events around the globe. It is expected to draw some 15,000 or more athletes to Westbrook and pour $9 million into the local economy on the weekend of Aug. 23-24.
The courses are 10 to 12 miles long and feature named obstacles that dare participants to swim through a pool of ice (“arctic enema”), leap over a wall of fire (“phoenix”), scale a mountain of hay (“King of the Mountain”) and run through live wires (“electroshock therapy”).
Registration opened Tuesday for “The Great Northeast” course in Westbrook, offered Aug. 23 and Aug. 24, with entry fees starting at $69 a day and steadily increasing until the weekend of the event, when any slots still open go for $200.
Harry and Rachel Neales have already signed up.
The father and daughter from Westbrook participated in their first Tough Mudder at Mount Snow in Vermont last fall. It took them about five hours to complete the 10.5-mile mountainside course, said Harry Neales, 46.
“By the time it was over, your calf muscles and your quads were definitely burning,” he said.
They imagined they’d do the Tough Mudder again at some point, Neales said, but were waiting for the right event. The one less than a mile from their house was it.
“We’re really looking forward to it,” he said.
While Neales is glad he can avoid the cost of a hotel room and rental car this time, Westbrook and surrounding towns will benefit from visitors who will be spending on those things and more.
“They’re going to patronize the restaurants and gas stations and corner stores,” said William Baker, Westbrook’s assistant city administrator.
Baker, who has friends and family members that have done Tough Mudder challenges, said he sent an unsolicited proposal last summer to host the event in Westbrook.
“Our goal is always to put feet on the street,” he said.
Tough Mudder, which was founded in 2010, held 53 events worldwide last year and has 55 planned this year. Elsewhere in New England, Gunstock Mountain Resort in New Hampshire was a host last June and Vermont’s Mount Snow will host another challenge in May.
Other similar, smaller-scale events already exist in Maine, but their success doesn’t appear threatened by the Tough Mudder.
Sunday River’s Tough Mountain Challenge debuted in 2010 with a cap of 200 people and has continued to grow, and sell out, every year.
This year’s event on July 26 is capped at 3,500 participants and is already 80 percent sold out, according to its website.
The sheJAMs Dynamic Dirt Challenge at Pineland Farms in New Gloucester has also sold out since its first year in 2011 and organizers expect the same this year, said race director Julie Marchese.
She doesn’t think the Tough Mudder will take away participants from the sheJams event in June, which she said is less challenging and could serve as a warm-up.
“We think there’s plenty of room for both of us,” she said.
Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at: