SMBA Visits Chula Vista Olympic Training Center

trackWith the Sochi Winter Olympics in the books, all eyes are now pointed at the upcoming 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. News reports surfaced this week that US Olympic swimming legend Michael Phelps could return to the pool for the upcoming Olympic Games. In the spirit of the Olympic fever, the SDSU Sports MBA class took a tour of the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif.

The opportunity gave SMBA ’15 a  chance to gain some insight as how the U.S.O.C. helps America’s heroes train for the games. The class also learned about the facility’s capacity, schedule, revenue model and value proposition. After Q&A with Center’s Associate DIrector, the class hit the pavement and saw some of the training grounds throughout the massive 155-acre campus.


Here are a few of the more notable facts about the U.S. Olympic Training Center that was highlighted during the visit:

The 133 on-campus beds are filled to 95 percent capacity year-round, but not always by American Olympians and Paralympians. Occasionally a competitor or an entire team from another country will travel to Chula Vista to train on the USA’s training grounds … for a fee.

For example, the class learned about a young West African athlete who wanted to learn to kayak. In Senegal, there’s no infrastructure at all to learn to kayak, so he was sent by his government to Chula Vista, where he learned to competitively kayak for nine months, and his government paid the US Olympic Training Center for their services.

Speaking of services, that’s the training center’s value proposition. They help Olympic athletes focus exclusively on training and handle all the ancillary arrangements. Travel, housing, food, errands and everything else are all handled by the Training Center’s staff in order to make sure that athletes can focus on competing.

The facility and its operations are funded entirely by the U.S. Olympic Committee, or U.S.O.C. The U.S.O.C. gets the vast majority of its funding from media rights agreements with NBC to the tune of roughly $700 million every four years. The United States is the only nation in the world in which a substantial percentage of the Olympic committee’s budget does not come from the government.

The money from NBC, however, isn’t 100 percent guaranteed. The U.S. Olympic Committee has certain conditions that it must fulfill. In order to receive its television money, NBC requires that the U.S.O.C. guarantee a marketable broadcast product by fielding and entering a team or athlete in the Olympics for every individual or team that qualifies for the Olympics. Or rather, if an athlete or team that has qualified for the Olympics decides suddenly to withdraw from the Olympic Games for whatever reason, the U.S.O.C. must find a replacement team to compete in his or its place, otherwise the media rights moneys are forfeit. The other requirement from NBC is that the U.S.O.C. sends its entire Olympic contingent out during the opening and closing ceremonies.

As for what the U.S.O.C. does with its revenues, we learned that it issues grants to the national sport federations for the various Olympic sports, such as U.S. Soccer or U.S. Cycling. If those federations choose to train at Chula Vista, they are provided with a playing surface, equipment, and most importantly, the aforementioned services at a steep discount.

The U.S.O.C. also distributes funds to its various training centers. Chula Vista gets $7 million annually, while the two other training centers – one in Colorado Springs and the other in Lake Placid – receive $8 million and $3 million, respectively.

What do they do with that $7 million? They build facilities for field hockey, archery and BMX bike racing.
bmx coursefield hockey

By no means is there something at the facility for everyone. Many athletes do not train at the center in Chula Vista to prepare for the Olympics, especially winter athletes. But the 95 percent occupancy rate is a testament to the effectiveness of the center’s methods and the determination of the center’s staff to provide a first-class facility for America’s heroes to prepare for the games.

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