Michael Johnson, SPIRE Indoor Track Facility, photo courtesy of SPIREinsititute.org
In the movie, Field of Dreams, a baseball diamond is built by one who hears a voice, “if you build it, they will come.”
That voice in the ear could have been in the ear of Ron Clutter and his wife, Tracy. Wanting to do something to bring their communities together, and wanting to bring a true excitement to the Geneva, Ohio area, the Clutters’ started building their dream, the SPIRE Institute.
Clutter made his fortune selling air conditioning units to the military, and after selling that business, devoted his time and energy to his dream: the SPIRE Institute. The parents of two, Ron and Tracy wanted to give something back to the community.
The nobleness of learning something through the activity of sport is not new. Building a 754,000 square foot facility on fifty acres (and there is still another 110 acres to build on), is.
My visit to the SPIRE Institute started last Friday, when, on a walk in San Jose, California, I received a phone call from Lisa Levine, who is managing public relations for the Institute. After sending me a link to the site, and drawings of the facility, I was intrigued. When she told me who was involved with the project and where they wanted to take SPIRE, I changed my plans, flew back to Wisconsin, and drove out to Geneva, Ohio from my offices in Fort Atkinson, WIsconsin.
David Smalley, Director of External Affairs, gave us the tour of the facilities. From the indoor volleyball courts and basketball courts, to the indoor regular soccer (FIFA rules, high school rules) fields, to the attention to detail, SPIRE has done an amazing job at building a tremendous facility. David has been around sports all of his life-his father coached basketball at the naval academy-and his enthusiasm for this facility knows no bounds. And quite frankly, with as wonderful a facility as they have built, there should be no bounds.
Opening the facility up to the community, they encourage people to walk inside their facility each day ($15 a month or $1 for a day). A sports medicine doctor has established his practice in the building, working with the athletes from local high schools, youth clubs, and colleges.
The indoor track, with a 300 meter flat Beynon surface, has two long and triple jump runways, abilty to throw discus, shot, weight throw, inside, and seating for 3-4,000. The facility is so large infact, two 200 meter indoor tracks could be placed, side by side inside the indoor track facility. The indoor track was started in June of 2009 and hosted events in January of 2010.
The outdoor track is a Beynon surface, and the field inside the track can host football and soccer games. The day we were there, three double dual meets and a tri-meet were going on. With top of the line timing (FinishLynx, the best in the business), this facility is hosting events. Rick Marinelli, the Director of Track & Field Operations, noted that if they had to build a 400 meter indoor track, they would only have to reline the track surface-the surfacing is there and they already have the room. Remember, ” if you build it, they will come…”
So, with indoor and outdoor facilities, back to back (the outdoor can seat 7-12,000), would one think that a throw stadium was about to be developed, right next door, with a nice track as well? One has to think that SPIRE sure must want to host elite indoor and outdoor meets, and aspirations for US national events? In the indoor facilities, one can have all of the field events in action, without impacting the running events. The attention to detail is amazing.
” Yes, we would love to host national and elite events at SPIRE” noted Stephanie Tolleson, former IMG Vice President and member of the SPIRE management team. In fact, besides the facilities, the management team is also one of the most impressive parts of this fascinating new project.
Ted Meekma, who managed IMG sports academies and worked with IMG Tennis academies for nearly two decades, is the man behind the new SPIRE sport academies. Meekma made it clear that he wants to develop the new stars in the sport of track & field, among others. Think about a world class training center in the heart of mid-America, one of track & field’s strong holds!
Ron Clutter has that, “vision thing.” Clutter is a believer. He and his wife have believed in this project from day1, and will build “until the market stops us.” Clutter believes that SPIRE will grow as long as it answers the needs of an ever growing community.
The U.S.O.C. has visited the facility. The U.S.A. Track & Field team will be visiting in the next two weeks.
In my mind, this is a perfect answer to what some coaches of track athletes are begging for now-access to training facilities for the athletes just on the verge of reaching elite status. Meekma and Tolleson made it clear, that while they want the emerging athletes to come here, and many events (they can do many at once and will have residential units within 18 months),
they want to open to war veterans, para Olympians, youth soccer leagues and the couple who want to get their daily walk in a place that is not rainy or cold.
The management team is a virtual IMG College reunion. Understand one thing, most of these folks have no need to gettting involved in something that will take long hours to develop. Meekma, Tolleson and her husband Peter Johnson, among others, have obviously understood or share Ron Clutter’s vision: SPIRE is simply, the best sports facilities in the country.
Most of the media were fascinated with nine time Olympic medalist Michael Johnson, who called the indoor facility, ” at least the equal of the World Indoor facility in Doha, Qatar”, if not, the best in the world. That is a statement that bears some consideration, when one notes that Mr. Johnson is not one prone to exaggeration. Michael Johnson made it clear, ” this facility is second to none.”
Just like when Michael Johnson was running, he is a man of few words. His actions are what need to be considered. MJ Performance will develop only its second facility and staff at SPIRE. This is not a man looking for a franchise business. Michael Johnson told RBR that he wants to help develop athletes. ” This is not a track specific performance business, we are about building athleticisim, preventing injuries and developing overall fitness.” Citing the lack of physical education across the country, and the single mindedness of many athletes to one sport (” playing multi-sports develops a wide range of skills”), Michael Johnson is a man on a mission.
The final fascinating part of this puzzle is that the SPIRE academy is non-profit. Working with foundations to find answers to childhood obesity, and developing wellness programs for all ages, SPIRE and its management team wants to impact that way the business of sports is conducted, but also how sports impacts athletes and the community.
For the 300 teen age track athletes who were having a meet at SPIRE, the memory of the day will be having Michael Johnson speak to them. Johnson is one of the most important track & field athletes of his generation. He is also a businessman and a father. His talk to the young athletes was meant to inspire-who knows who will become a coach or a top athlete in the future. His time with them, signing some autographs, signing shoes, is a big deal to these young people.
Congratulations for SPIRE getting the SPIRE academy and the MJ Performance center announcements to the world. This facility, and its staff are winning people over, one track and field meet at a time….
With the facility, and their new partnerships, SPIRE Institute is on its way….
All photos courtesy of SPIRE Institute. Special thanks to Lisa Levine & SPIRE team for opening the facility to RBR.
All photos copyright SPIRE Institute.
For more on SPIRE, please check:
Superb story in Clevenland Plain Dealer:
Olympic Gold Medalist and World Champion, Michael Johnson, partners with SPIRE Institute as Site for His Second Performance Training Center
Geneva, Ohio, May 4, 2011 – SPIRE Institute (www.spireinstitute.org) one of the largest indoor, Olympic-grade multi-sport training and competition complexes in the world, with over 750,000 sq ft of facilities, announced today it is partnering with Michael Johnson to be the home of the second Michael Johnson Performance Training Center. The Institute also announced it will be launching a comprehensive new training and educational opportunity called SPIRE Academy. SPIRE will train the broadest mix of athletes ever assembled; high school and college athletes, weekend warriors and wounded Veterans, Paralympians and Special Olympians and will place an equal emphasis on academics with a customized curriculum infused with the business of sport. SPIRE Academy and its nationally renowned coaches will offer training in soccer, track and field, volleyball, swimming, and lacrosse, the most comprehensive mix of sports ever done in an Academy setting.
The launch of the Michael Johnson Performance Training Center is scheduled for Fall 2011. SPIRE Academy commences with summer training camps in June of 2012 and residential Academy semesters in the Fall of 2012.
“SPIRE Institute exists to empower athletes to reach their full potential — not just in sports, but also in school and in life, ” said Ron Clutter, founder of the SPIRE Institute. “And because of this mission, we are thrilled to partner with Michael Johnson and enable our athletes from around the world to learn, train and compete with the best resources available to them. With SPIRE Academy and the Michael Johnson Performance Training Center, there will be no place in the country like SPIRE to push your physical and mental boundaries.”
Michael Johnson explained why he partnered with SPIRE. “We share a common purpose: helping athletes at all levels reach their full potential. This was the basis for starting Michael Johnson Performance. Not every athlete who walks through our doors walks out a Division One scholarship recipient or a professional athlete, but all of our athletes reach their athletic potential. SPIRE Academy also has the people and the facilities to provide athletes with every possible tool to achieve success. There’s not another athletic training facility in the country that could rival what’s in Geneva.”
The Michael Johnson Performance Training Centerâ€¨The Michael Johnson Performance Center is a state-of-the-art sports performance training facility owned and operated by Michael Johnson, the four-time Olympic Gold Medalist and nine-time World Champion in track and field. Johnson is widely considered to be amongst the greatest sprinters to grace the track and the greatest 400 meter runner of all time.
The Michael Johnson Performance Center helps both aspiring youth athletes and elite/professional athletes from around the world who are involved with a diverse range of sports. The Center is dedicated to helping athletes reach their athletic potential by improving speed, agility, strength and conditioning and endurance and will be a resource to every athlete training at SPIRE, in every sport. One of the signature programs of the Michael Johnson Performance Training Center is its annual NFL Combine Preparatory Camp and it is also a training center used by many NFL Players preparing for the season, some of whom include; LaDainian Tomlinson, Adrian Peterson, Knowshon Moreno, Tony Romo, Roy Williams, Eli Manning, Ndamukong Suh, Alex Smith, Michael Crabtree, and Michael Oher.
The first Michael Johnson Performance Center opened in 2007 at Craig Ranch in McKinney, Texas. SPIRE Institute will be the home of the second Michael Johnson Performance Center.
Spire Academy and its nationally renowned coaches will offer training in soccer, track and field, volleyball, swimming, and lacrosse, the most comprehensive mix of sports ever done in an Academy setting. It will be the first residential Academy custom designed with as much emphasis on education as on training and the first with a comprehensive mix of sports. The Academy’s unique curriculum will offer classes in the business of sport. The Academy’s mission is to produce strong minds, strong bodies, and strong character. The Academy will offer residential semesters, weekend training sessions and week long summer camps and will be the most diverse and inclusive mix of athletes assembled on one campus.
About the SPIRE Institute
SPIRE Institute is one of the largest indoor, multi-sport, training and competition complexes in the world and integrates sports and education, training and learning, in a way that has never been done before with a focus on the development of the whole self. With more than 750,000 sq. ft. under roof and acres of outdoor facilities, it has the unique capacity to simultaneously host clubs, leagues, tournaments and championship events no matter the weather or the season. SPIRE’s holistic approach integrates health and wellness programs; including conditioning, nutrition, sports psychology, and physical therapy. SPIRE Institute is a non-profit organization and re-invests every dollar back into the development of its athletes, either in the facilities they use or through financial assistance, creating opportunities for deserving athletes.