PARK CITY, UT (May 7) – The stationary bikes are all lined up in a row. Weight platforms and treadmills are standing at the ready. The lines on the sprint track stand out brilliantly from the cushioned floor. Sport science and sports medicine staff put the finishing touches on high-tech testing equipment as the world's best skiers and snowboarders began all out training this month at the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association's (USSA) new Center of Excellence – just over nine months until opening ceremonies in Vancouver.
The world-class training and education facility, the Center of Excellence, opened its doors to the nation's top ski and snowboarding athletes in May, signaling a new era for the century-old sports organization. The 85,000 sq. ft. center will be a showcase for the sports, providing elite-level training and serving as an educational resource for the USSA's members and 400 clubs nationwide.
"The Center represents our heart and soul," said USSA President and CEO Bill Marolt. "It is our commitment to the thousands of young athletes striving for their Olympic dream and brings us together as one great American ski and snowboarding team. It is the cornerstone for greater U.S. skiing and snowboarding success at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and beyond."
The Center of Excellence is the home for the USSA's elite athletes, a headquarters for the Olympic sports organization, and an educational resource for athletes, coaches, judges and officials and parents. It is part of a long-term vision developed by the USSA over a decade ago, adding to the legacy of athlete training facilities spawned by the Salt Lake City Olympics. Those Games vitalized the culture of athletics in Utah with the opening of the Utah Olympic Park in the early '90s, along with the development of Soldier Hollow cross country skiing facilities and world-class venues like Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley Resort that remain active in competitive skiing and snowboarding.
The Center of Excellence was built on five acres just east of Park City in Quinn's Junction at the intersection of U.S. 40 and Utah 248. It is part of a bustling athletic and medical complex featuring athletic fields, an indoor ice rink, the National Ability Center and a new Intermountain Healthcare hospital.
The heartbeat of the three-story Center is the first floor training area where ski and snowboarding athletes can train together in a huge cardio center and weight room. A full-sized gymnasium is available for basketball and other training activities. And a unique "ramps and tramps" area features bungee trampolines for aerial training, a skateboarding bowl and ramps to practice snowboarding and freestyle tricks, and even a ski and snowboardcross starting gate and ramp. Flanking the training area are a world-class sport science lab, sports medicine facilities and recovery area plus a nutrition center.
"I'm excited to have the Center of Excellence in Park City because it's going to bring a lot of athletes and programs together under one roof," said nordic combined World Champion Billy Demong, who moved from New York to Utah to train. "It's a flagship move on the part of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. The Center of Excellence is going to increase the productivity of the relationships among the coaches, athletes and administration because everybody is going to be under one roof and it will keep the mission closer at hand."
Marolt knows that physical conditioning is the core of any successful athletic program. "Sport science is vital to athletic success from personalized training programs specific to each athlete in every sport to research and development on athletic performance equipment. USSA Sport Science is the best in the world and a great benefit for our athletes with the program leadership and the new training and testing facilities."
Injury prevention and rehabilitation are critical, as well. "Athletic injuries are a part of sport," said Marolt. "USSA Sport Medicine now has top line facilities to serve athletes in rehabilitation, both helping in prevention of injuries and expediting a safe return to snow." The sports medicine area features rehabilitation exercise equipment, training and rehab pools, plunge pools plus dry and steam saunas.
One of the most important functions of the Center of Excellence will be delivering the USSA developed research and education to the thousands of athletes in local clubs across America. "The knowledge developed here will be served to our 400 local clubs through USSA Sport Education," said Marolt. "It's not just about this facility - it's an opportunity to provide athletes, parents, judges and officials, coaches and other sport leaders with the latest information to help them succeed with the same knowledge that is helping national team athletes be the best in the world."
Athletes train under the watchful eyes of past medalists. A "Ring of Champions" features photographs of past Olympic heroes, with trophies, medals and crystal globes on display in showcases.
The Center was built solely with funds generated as part of a decade-long Legacy Campaign. "Our athletes are truly indebted to those individuals who had the vision and the passion to support future success," said Marolt. "Those donors are very much a part of the fabric of the Center of Excellence and what it represents to our sports."
The USSA broke ground on the Center in July, 2007. The facility was designed by the architectural firm WPA in Provo with project management from Steven Brown of Millcreek Construction and Development and built by Jacobsen Construction Company.
Construction workers took a special pride knowing that their work would benefit future Olympic athletes. "When you have the opportunity to work on a facility like this, where the end gain is providing an opportunity for young people to fulfill their Olympic dreams, people get excited," said Marolt. "People get excited about the youth of America becoming Olympic champions. They take a special pride. And they took a special commitment to excellence – to make this facility absolutely perfect."
That commitment to excellence will also be seen in the athletes who have moved into their new home and will be training six to eight hours a day towards a goal of Olympic gold. And with Vancouver just nine months away, training this summer for athletes like World Champion Lindsey Vonn will take on a new sense of urgency.
"This is a huge step for all of the athletes and for the USSA as an organization," Vonn said. "I'm really excited to be a part of the historic opening of this world class facility. Even more than having an incredible gym literally a mile away from my home, it's going to be awesome to see the top athletes from all the sports work out. It's also going to be huge for the club programs to have this facility as a resource."
The public will get a chance to visit the new Center of Excellence at a Friday, July 17 open house.