HARPERSFIELD TOWNSHIP —
Another step in the growth of Spire Institute as a national sports center was taken Friday morning.
“Today I would like to officially announce Spire Institute as our 16th Olympic and Paralympic training site,” said Alicia McConnell, director of training sites and community partnerships for the U.S. Olympic Committee.
An emotional Ron Clutter, founder of Spire Institute, said he was looking forward to the institute working not only with Olympic athletes, but with athletes young and old with wide ranging athletic ability.
Clutter said the growth of Spire Institute also has a large economic impact.
“Tens of millions of dollars will be brought into our region,” he said while dozens of athletes were warming up for the Big 10 track meet at the world class track facility below the banquet area where the press conference was held.
Michael Johnson, a 400-meter Olympic gold medalist and founder of Michael Johnson Performance, said he travels all over the world and is happy to be partnered with a facility like Spire Institute.
“I did an Irish gig,” said Duffy Mahoney, director of high performance programs for U.S. Track and Field, while explaining how the relationship will benefit the organization and athletes.
Mahoney said the site will likely become a coaching education center, a place for sports medicine-science programs and camps for high school and college athletes.
He said there are 1 million high school athletes competing in the sport.
Spire’s next step maybe dormitories and a hotel.
“I think it is safe to say discussions (with developers) are under way ... This kind of an announcement will generate a lot of interest and maybe push (the new development) over the top,” Clutter said.
Mahoney said there will be several different ways for Olympic caliber athletes to use the facility. He said high level athletes will have the opportunity to come to Spire and train for short periods of time when weather, or other issues, make training a problem in their particular area.
He said another group of athletes (about 700 across the country) will have access to the facility, for a nominal fee, to train at their convenience.
Will Waller, a member of the U.S.A. Wheelchair Basketball Team that earned a bronze medal at the 2012 London Paralympic Games, thanked Clutter for his commitment to disabled athletes.
“If it wasn’t for the contribution of Spire that bronze medal would not have been possible,” he said.
Jeff Pacini, director of the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, said Spire Institute increases the possibility of having major sporting events in northeastern Ohio.
“It really reinforces this region as a proven sports destination,” he said.