CHULA VISTA, Calif. — The prospects of a 7-year-old girl who is training to be a professional BMX racer could be affected by negotiations between the U.S. Olympic Committee and Chula Vista over the future of the Olympic Training Center.
The city of Chula Vista is one step closer to closing a deal with the U.S. Olympic Committee to take over the operation of the Olympic Training Facility near Otay Lakes.
The USOC spends about $8 million a year running the elite training center but says it’s a task that takes them away from their primary goal of supporting athletes and winning medals. They are in negotiations to give the land back to the city, opening up an opportunity for the 155-acre space to be more accessible to the public.
That’s great news for young athletes like 7-year-old Malia Whitehouse, whose love of BMX started at the ripe old age of 5 when her dad took her to a motocross race.
“She wanted a dirt bike,” said her father Jim Whitehouse. “I said we need to get our BMX skills up first before we buy a dirt bike.”
That was two and half years ago and her love of the sport hasn’t wavered.
She’s now a pro in her age group and says she likes taking on the girls. She works out on the track twice a week at the center and travels on the national circuit.
Her dad said riding with the pro racers is inspiring.
“Just to be at this facility, where the Olympic athletes are training, and having a kid like my daughter being able to be influenced by Olympic athletes is huge,” Whitehouse said.
Like the hundreds of other athletes and Olympic hopefuls who train at the OTC, Whitehouse and his daughter hope nothing changes when the USOC gives the facility back to the city of Chula Vista.
The negotiations have been going on for 6 months as the parties work out the details of how to manage the center without interruption and create a business plan to open up the space for public events and revenue generating opportunities. Eric Judson, CEO of JMI Sports, presented the feasibility study at a public meeting Monday.
“We still want to have great Olympic training here, but lets open it up to business opportunities, and ultimately what we hope that does is generate more revenue,” Judson said. “That’s the objective.”
He said the proposal is a win-win for everybody: the athletes, the community and San Diego at large.”
“There is actually no deficit right now. We’re trying to make sure the business plan makes enough revenue to cover the costs,” Judson added.
But the rubber meets the road on the wheels of young athletes like Malia Whitehouse.
“I’m a professional BMXer, and at my school they talk all about me!”
“Having the opportunity is unbelievable for her to be here, to ride with the pros, and where we are in San Diego — can’t put a price tag on that!” he said.
Chula Vista has until the end of the year to commit to the agreement. Then the transition will take place in 2017.