Race Owner Opens, then Closes, New Business
2013 was a major year for obstacle course racing. With the rise in popularity of the sport, many have joined the trend of beginning their own race. Race director and designer Dan Barrett was one of those who opened a new OCR event series. The race stared as Tarzan’s Cup and then became Jungle Cup in 2012. The Jungle Cup held their last race on March 23, 2013 in Baltimore and have since suspended all future races. At the time they closed their business, registration had already opened for future scheduled races. Those who had paid for registration were promised a refund. Those refunds never came to most racers.
A former participant, who wished to remain anonymous, an avid OCR athlete and member of team NE Spahtens, was one of those signed up to participate in April’s Boston Jungle Cup. She never received the refund she was promised when the race was canceled. She wrote two emails to Barrett, both of which were answered with further commitments to pay the refund. To date, the participant has still seen no sign of a refund.
Before canceling their Boston 2013 race, Jungle Cup delayed the race citing issues with Active.com‘s registration. These were disputed, and resolution was never reached because shortly after the announcement of the issues, Jungle Cup cancelled their events. After the cancellation, athletes began to search for answers when their money didn’t materialize. They found unexpected answers. Dan Barrett had opened an OCR training facility in Miami after shutting down the Jungle Cup. Paul Jones (manager of the NE Spahtens team) posted that [Barrett] had opened his racing facility in Florida and one participant hopped on his Facebook page and posted “Hey this looks like where my refund money went. Where is my refund money?”
Barrett replied directly to the post.
I apologize for the long delay in responding to refund questions! The Jungle Cup grew too fast without a strong enough foundation of people and finances. We never intended to ‘cheat’ or disappoint any one. We got in over our heads and had to put a halt to races and focus on generating cash flow. It may take more time, but we will refund everyone for the cancelled events. Please don’t think I spent your refund dollars on the new Jungle Jym. I spent 8 weeks building it by myself. As the cash flow comes in, it will go directly to refunds. Regards, Dan Barret”
Unfortunately, this reply was deleted shortly after it was posted. But, Jones was able to capture a screenshot of the reply. With no sign of a refund still, the athlete reported Barrett to the Better Business Bureau. When a complaint is filed, the BBB evaluate the content and then attempts to resolve the issue directly with the business owner in question. Barrett never responded to the complaint filed with the BBB.
With the indefinite delay in refunds, many athletes proceeded to get their refunds from their banks instead. The above participant chose to wait for Barrett to pay her back. “I probably should have [gone to my bank], but I wanted to get the refund from them. I thought Dan would eventually come through, but I guess not… It really looks like he took all that money and put it into his racing facility.”
No Trophy for You!
Still other athletes were owed participation awards like trophies and medals. Allan Ajoy, a racer from Miami, ran in two Tarzan Cup races and two Jungle Cup races. Ajoy won the Jungle Cup in January 2013. He said he contacted Barrett numerous times to receive his trophy but never received a reply.
“In January, I won the Jungle Cup and got [promised] a trophy. I sent several emails and it never happened. You know what? It’s funny because if I’d won money, amazing! But, I do like trophies and a nice medal when you win something. So, for me, it’s not about the money, it’s about the principle.” – Allan Ajoy
Ajoy’s experience with Jungle Cup didn’t end positively and he didn’t sign up for another event. “After that, I was not amazed anymore by that race.”
Barrett never gave him the trophy.
Barrett’s obstacle training gym opened in October under the name “Jungle Jym.” The name has since been changed to Miami Obstacle Course. Ajoy attended their opening day and visited once more after an invitation from friends. He doesn’t plan to return.
“It was fun the first time. I went the second time and was there, but that was it. Now that I’ve seen it, I think it’s great but you’d have to have a lot of ways to make it fresh everyday. When people pay for a month for a gym, they don’t do the same thing everyday. [Miami Obstacle Course] would have to have amazing trainers that change their routine everyday or the obstacles all the time because people get bored.”
Here today, gone tomorrow
On December 9, 2013, 2 months after their opening, Miami Obstacle Course posted a notice that they would be closed down indefinitely. “Miami Obstacle Course has been awarded a contract to fabricate obstacles for a national OCR. The course will be closed until further notice.” No updates have been made to the page detailing the time frame in which the course will reopen fully.
Miami Obstacle Gym is situated on a 24,000 square foot field owned by Legacy Fit. Joseph Stempien is an employee at Legacy Fit. He explained that the obstacle gym is still open despite the announcement on the Facbeook page. ORM asked for clarity about the closure of the gym and Barrett’s contract to build obstacles. He answered, “That’s kind of what’s going on. Dan was hired by a few of the national obstacle races – we’re not allowed to say which races – to build and create new obstacles and sell them to races so they can bring them and use them as well. He’s actually coming up with some new stuff getting some inspiration from American Ninja Warrior and making them a little tougher.”
Before accepting Barrett’s obstacle gym proposal, Legacy Fit checked into his business past and required transparency with his issues. “Of course, we didn’t want to be associated with a dirt bag. When we first met him you know, we asked a couple of people about him. We asked Geishel Valverdes – she was the first person we talked to about the issues with him. We put those right out front in the open. We did our own research and went to his Facebook page and saw people posting ‘Hey, where’s my money?’ We asked him and he has every intention of paying them back. It’s not like he’s out there living a lavish lifestyle.”
Show me the money.
Legacy Fit is fully aware of Barrett’s background in Tarzan and Jungle Cups and the money that is still owed to athletes. This has also not escaped the OCR community. Barrett’s reputation has affected the success of his obstacle gym. “I have not heard good stories about [the races],” Stempien said. “Well, that was part of the problem was that originally [the gym] was called Jungle Jym and now it’s actually called the Miami Obstacle Course because we had to get away from that negative stigma he had associated with that name.”
Stempien stated that Barrett opened the gym in order to support his plan to refund racers and also why he has put the gym on hold to work with creating obstacles. Reportedly, Barrett continues to say he will refund the money to athletes who paid for cancelled races. “Yeah, he has every intention to right all his wrongs. That’s kind of where the whole fabricating obstacles and everything for races [came in] because he can make more money doing that than you can running a course right now,” said Stempien.
Unfortunately, Dan Barrett remains very difficult to contact and maintains a lack of response to emails and phone calls. Stempien said he hasn’t heard from Barrett in weeks and has had trouble communicating with him. Similarly, ORM was unable to speak directly with Barrett. We tried numerous times over a few weeks to speak with him about the end of Jungle Cup and the new Miami Obstacle Course. To date, he has not replied to emails or returned our phone calls.