Mud bog racing pit could hit Hernando County

Tuesday’s Hernando County Commission meeting could one day be on national television.

“Once I get their permission I intend to have it on national television,” said Mike Barbee, executive producer and CEO of “Mud on the Barbee,” who works for Chameleon Filmworks out of Clearwater. “This is all about a bunch of rednecks playing in the mud and a bunch of country western guys playing on stage.”

Barbee is referring to the 150-acre mud bog racing project he estimates could bring between $2.5 million to $5 million a month to Hernando County. He made county commissioners aware of it Tuesday morning.

“Bring it on,” Chairman Dave Russell said.

Barbee said he will “absolutely” meet with Hernando County Business Development Director Mike McHugh in the future, to determine how the location slated for the site — 150 acres near Yontz Road and Ponce de Leon Boulevard — could accommodate the proposed project that will consist of four-wheel drive mud racing, including all-terrain vehicles, monster trucks and drag races.

“Requirements for what would be needed will be determined once he details the activity to us,” McHugh said, adding that no official presentations, plans or discussions have taken place. “We would certainly bring our local folks responsible for this together, and if there’s land development going on, then the local water district would be involved, as would our county development department, and we would certainly help him answer those questions.”

McHugh said if the county receives any official proposals, it will determine if any specific state or local codes would be applicable to enact the project.

“It’s a very preliminary thing at this point,” McHugh said. “I think he was there for more of an awareness.”

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Barbee said his business partner owns the 150-acre property and is involved in contracts concerning the proposed mud bog race pit.

“It really will be good for gas stations and restaurants; I can’t think of any business that won’t benefit from bringing 25,000 people a month in,” Barbee said, adding that mud bog racing is a $1.8 billion annual industry, and each person to visit Hernando County is estimated to spend $200 on maintenance, gas, lodging, food and entertainment. “I’m trying to bring some blood into this county. We need some blood.”

Barbee said three major television networks have expressed interest in airing a “Reality TV” series of the project’s development, with an underscoring theme about “how to help save a town.”

“Our target is to have the first event in March, but that’s going to depend on if the county commission and all people involved get behind us,” Barbee said. “If we can push, we can do this and have the first event in 90 days. But I need the help of the people. As long as we don’t have to jump through every hoop in the world, we’re ready to go.”

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Barbee said the project vision includes presale $50 tickets over the Internet to spectators and participants, with a $50 to $100 entry fee for competitors. He thinks there will be at least 500 competitors among the 25,000 estimated draw, “if not more.”

The bog pit obstacle course will be dug into the ground, and there will not be a stadium structure with bleachers, but rather lawn chairs and campers, Barbee said.

“Probably over in the drag racing part we’ll put in bleachers as time goes on, but this is redneck, this is roughneck,” Barbee said. “We’re still working out the details, but it’s like $50 a ticket whether you compete or don’t, and that gets you in and takes care of your three-day pass, and just like any race if you compete you pay an entry fee because you’re going for prize money. So it’ll cost to enter your car into the race.”

Barbee said the “biggest fear” for the proposed event is to oversell, and have someone tow all their racing equipment 100 miles and not be able to get in.

“Our goal is to pre-sell our tickets to control this environment,” Barbee said. “The whole thing is control. We want this to be a family event where people can bring their children and families and have a great time.”

For that reason, the track will have a “DNA list,” Barbee said: a “do not admit” list for those who violate event rules.

“If anybody misbehaves, they will not be allowed back in the park,” he said. “We don’t want a bunch of drunken rednecks out here; we want this to be a family environment. Races with prizes and big name bands in a controlled environment.”

Barbee said he has contacted “celebrities and well-known bands” that he cannot name without contract, but could participate in prospective events and appear in a prospective reality TV show.

“(The show is) not sold yet, but that’s what we’re dealing with,” Barbee said. “This is a lot of money that could come into Hernando County, and what you do is finish 13 episodes and edit it. Now they’re in the can. That’s a series.” (352) 544-5271

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