KEEPING TRACK

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KEEPING TRACK

Written by Rod O’Donnell on 23 October 2011.

It may not be the eighth wonder of the world, but the SPIRE Institute,  located in Geneva, Ohio, is certainly one of the greatest competitive and training facilities that can be found anywhere in this country. Local businessman Ron Clutter’s dream of establishing a world-class training site is now a reality. Words cannot capture the true picture; it requires a visit and a tour to comprehend and appreciate Clutter’s accomplishment.

When you enter the first area of the complex, you are facing a 750,000 square foot area that includes a full-size soccer field that can also be used for softball, all levels of baseball and lacrosse, along with smaller soccer fields. In the other half of this complex are 12 volleyball courts, six full-size basketball courts, nine tennis courts, space for gymnastics and other mat sports. There is an elevated area for spectators.

The next area includes a world-class, eight-lane, outdoor, lighted track, with four long jump pits, four pole vault boxes, a huge area for the high jump, and an adjacent throws stadium that includes another 400-meter warm-up track. The track surrounds a beautiful football field. Seating capacity for the competitive portion is 10,000, with luxury suites and a covered patio.

Located next to the outdoor track is an indoor track that is nothing short of spectacular. Designed by Architect Chris Smith (TDA Architecture, based in Willoughby), a former Kent State track athlete, the building includes an eight-lane, 300-meter Beynon track. With a radius that is the same as that of a 400-meter outdoor track, it will allow athletes to achieve very fast times. There are also two, 10-lane, 100-meter straightaways and separate areas for field events that do not interfere with races on the track. There is seating for the 5,000 fans who will be informed and entertained by Lynx Timing and a Daktronics video board. Overlooking the complex is a 25,000 square foot, glass-enclosed banquet facility. The infield of the track is also designed for soccer, lacrosse, baseball, and softball use. This section of the SPIRE has already hosted the NAIA National Championship, a collegiate meet featuring several top Division I programs in the country, a collegiate league championship, and numerous high school meets. Plans to host even larger meets are currently underway.

The aquatic center houses a 10-lane, 50-meter pool; a 25-meter pool; and four therapeutic pools. Similar to the track complex, future hosting of major events is a priority.

Locker rooms are available for athletes and are convenient to all venues.

Olympic great, Michael Johnson, recently announced that he would open his second performance center, similar to the one now operating in Dallas, Texas, at SPIRE.  During the press conference, where Johnson announced his plans, he stated that the site had been chosen because he considered the SPIRE complex to be one of the best in the world. That is an impressive endorsement from the greatest sprinter in recent American history.

As readers can see, Clutter has spared no expense in developing the facility. Chief Operating Officer, Jeff Orloff, joined the SPIRE staff after spending 23 years as a key corporate leader with IMG. With Clutter’s vision and Orloff’s leadership, this impressive facility will thrive and provide the Geneva area with a significant economic boost, already seen in the construction phase, with 90% of the work done by local workers.

Nothing has been left out of the planning. This includes the concept of making track meets more family and spectator-friendly. This could be accomplished by allowing use of the pool, gourmet restaurant, and fitness complexes, while the meet is being held. (As we know, track events can go on for some time.) This is not only a healthy way to spend part of the day, it is good for the sport of track and field.

The SPIRE is rapidly becoming a destination site for athletic competition in the United States. Future plans call for a dedicated cross-country course, tennis complex, an academic campus with residence halls and a hotel conference center, all of which will make it even more attractive to a wide variety of sports and participants. Congratulations and thanks to Ron and Tracy Clutter for their vision and generosity in making dreams become reality, and to the team they have assembled.  The beneficiaries are the Geneva community, thousands of young people, and sports that are many times low priorities. Our athletes have the opportunity to experience first-class events in a magnificent facility.

Please see www.spireinstitute.org and www.thendesign.com, for pictures and more detailed information.

Good luck to Ohio cross-country teams this fall –

Yours in track,

Rod O’Donnell   

 www.runohio.com

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