Ron Clutter ‘80 Makes Vision a Reality

October 14, 2013

For Ron Clutter ’80, sharing success is a moral obligation.

Ron, who opened the SPIRE Institute in Geneva, OH in 2009, has been active in the Geneva community since graduating from Mount Union with a degree in business. Over the years, Ron found professional success as he bought a number of businesses and sold them once it made sense to hand them over to a larger entity.

Several years ago, Ron was involved in discussions with residents of Geneva about the community’s needs. Given the financial constraints that local school districts and cities face, it became apparent to Ron that it didn’t make sense for every school to have a multi-million-dollar facility. It was then that the idea for the SPIRE Institute was born.

“I realized that if we built a larger facility, more of the community could use it and not have to spend school or community money for short-term usage,” he said. “You wouldn’t build a factory to run it for half a shift. As the vision grew, I realized how big the customer base could be if we had the proper product.”

And follow that vision he did.

Today, the SPIRE Institute is one of the largest indoor, multi-sport, training and competition complexes in the world. The facility encompasses more than 750,000 square feet under one roof and acres of outdoor facilities including two outdoor stadiums. The Institute has the unique capacity to simultaneously host clubs, leagues, tournaments and championship events no matter the weather or the season. In February, SPIRE was officially designated a U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Site, one of only a handful of facilities nationwide with this distinction.

Mount Union Education
Ron visited several colleges while in high school, but after visiting Mount Union he knew he was destined to attend a smaller school. As a student, he was an active member of Phi Kappa Tau fraternity.

“I thoroughly enjoyed being a member and all that comes along with a fraternal brotherhood,” said Ron. “We had a lot of fun, and I still keep in touch with my fraternity brothers.”

While he was at Mount Union, Ron had the unique opportunity to run his family business in Geneva while also going to class.
“I had the experience of learning formally and actually being in business while in college,” he recalled. “I had both the book and the actual experience.”

Ron said he was able to work out his class and work schedules while at Mount Union so that he was still able to enjoy the college life. He enjoyed his experience so much that he and his wife Tracy, daughter Veronica and son Austin still come back to campus for football games, volleyball games to watch their niece Taylor Webb ‘15, homecoming and other events. Ron and Tracy also attend virtually every track meet of their daughter, Veronica, a sophomore exercise science major at Mount Union. Like her father, Veronica knew she was destined to attend a smaller school and knew Mount Union was the special one when she was just a sophomore in high school.

The Evolution of SPIRE
Once Ron began realizing his vision for SPIRE, it didn’t take long for plans to take shape.

“We moved fast – we drew up the plans and started building,” Ron said. “I don’t wait on things. Growing up in an entrepreneurial environment, it’s common to move forward on a decision.”

SPIRE started with what is currently the front building of the complex. The facility now includes three main buildings and two outdoor stadiums – one for international soccer, football, lacrosse, rugby and international track that seats 10,000 and one throwing stadium for javelin, shotput, discus and hammer throw.

The main building, the Field and Cristal Courts Building, includes a synthetic turf field that can be used as a full-size soccer, lacrosse, football, baseball, softball, field hockey or rugby field or divided into smaller training areas. In addition, the building includes a multipurpose court surface that can be used as 12 volleyball courts, six basketball courts, nine tennis courts or for a variety of gymnastics events.

An indoor track and field building features an eight-lane track, a separate field event area, a synthetic turf field that can be used for football, soccer, lacrosse, baseball and softball and pitching machines and batting cages.

A third building, the Aquatics/Performance Training/Medical Center, features a 10-lane, 50-meter Olympic size pool, a diving area, therapeutic pools and the Michael Johnson Performance Training Center.

“We decided to utilize the best materials and design to the highest standards so that no sports governing body would say their athletes couldn’t train or compete here,” Ron said.

Planned additions to the complex in the future include a tennis complex, cross country course, academic complex with dormitories, a hotel and conference center, restaurants and a commercial development/retail village.

Preparing Athletes
Every athlete has an opportunity to better themselves at SPIRE Institute, and the Michael Johnson Performance Training Center offers numerous resources to help athletes achieve their goals.

“The Performance Center allows any caliber athlete to better themselves through high levels of technology and precise analytical programs,” Ron said. “No matter which athlete walks in, they are fully analyzed to their current capabilities and then a goal is set up depending on what they would like to achieve.”

For each athlete, programs are put into place to help them achieve their goals no matter their age or ability.

“The uniqueness is that we allow athletes to understand their bodies before they start trying to perfect them,” Ron explained. “A lot of people don’t understand how flaws are creating problems somewhere else. You work on that and then you start perfecting it.”
In addition, athletes on campus work with athletes on the nutritional and medical sides of training.

“No matter who walks in, we’re able to understand how they’re made and how we can help them better themselves,” said Ron.

Community Asset
In addition to serving as a place for athletes to train, SPIRE has proven to be an important resource for area schools and community groups. According to Ron, the Geneva Area City School District uses the complex for middle school and high school sports programs. The district utilizes the facility for all football, track and soccer games. In addition, 12 high schools use the swimming pool for training and competition.

“It has changed the thinking about competition in our schools,” he said. “In the past they held dual meets. But back to the business side, it’s not good utilization of your factory floor to work that way so now there might be six to 10 schools using the facility at the same time. It’s great to have all the area schools there because it heightens the level of competition.”

The community has also benefited from training, nutrition and coaching capabilities offered at SPIRE. Various programs are offered to different populations in the community. For example, the Striders group includes more than 1,000 participants who walk courses set up within the facility. Veterans and Paralympic groups also benefit from SPIRE’s offerings. Ron estimates that the complex has served hundreds of thousands of people since it opened.

“We’re blending everybody at this facility,” Ron said. “It’s not just Olympians, it’s high school athletes, college students and veterans. This facility has the capabilities to handle A-Z.”

Ron said that, to him, SPIRE is an example of sharing one’s success with others.

“My wife and I firmly believe in free market capitalism,” he said. “Anybody who studies and understands true free market capitalism understands that to be successful, you must be willing to share your success with those who have been part of grooming you. It’s not a government mandate, it is a moral obligation.”

For more information on SPIRE, visit spireinstitute.org.

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