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Ryan Lochte becomes Ambassador to Spire Institute[edit | edit source]

by SWIMMING WORLD EDITORIAL TEAM, 14 February 2020

Ryan Lochte Signed As Ambassador of SPIRE Institute in Ohio Olympic gold medalist Ryan Lochte will serve as International Swim Ambassador for the SPIRE Swim Academy and all SPIRE camp / club training and recreation aquatic programs and events. He will be conducting clinics and engaging with student-athletes at SPIRE, the largest indoor sports complex in North America.

Lochte will also serve as SPIRE’s industry spokesperson and will work closely with the SPIRE team on a complete strategy for building & developing its long term athletic development approach to swim training for athletes of all ages and ability levels.

SPIRE is under new leadership and ownership, after having been purchased in December 2019 by Axxella, LLC a Baltimore-based investment firm headed by Blue Ocean President & CEO Jonathan Ehrenfeld.


New owners in December 2019[edit | edit source]

Baltimore investment firm acquires massive Spire Institute in Geneva[edit | edit source]

by Kevin Kleps, https://www.crainscleveland.com/sports-business/baltimore-investment-firm-acquires-massive-spire-institute-geneva

Spire's 750,000 square feet of indoor sports facilities include a track that has hosted such events as the Big Ten men's and women's championships.

The Spire Institute — a massive, Olympic-caliber sports complex in Geneva that has been riddled by financial problems — has been acquired by a Baltimore investment firm.

Axxella, which was launched in 2018, said on Monday, Dec. 9, 2019, that it had purchased the 177-acre complex from Ron Clutter.

Clutter had invested more than $100 million in the property, which has 750,000 square feet of Olympic-grade facilities.

Spire, though, also had more than 100 acres of undeveloped land and its remote location has limited some of its event-drawing power.

Axxella said Monday that it planned on expanding the services that Spire already offers and would introduce new programs.

"Our intent is to build upon the work already begun at Spire," Axxella CEO Jonathan Ehrenfeld said in a statement released by the firm. "We recognize the importance of this complex to Northeast Ohio. As we build out the programming and facility footprint of Spire to appeal to a broader local, regional, national and international audience, we will do so in ways that will cause the surrounding community to always be proud of the tremendous resource that is Spire."

Axxella said its leadership team, specifically Ehrenfeld and chief operating officer Michael Hannon, would oversee the new projects and programs at Spire. Ted Meekma, who operates Ted Meekma Consult LLC, and Rich Odell of Heads Up Educational Consulting will also "play strategic roles within program/facility development and staffing/operations," Axxella said.

Jeff Orloff, Spire's longtime chief operating officer, told Crain's that he will remain in his role, and Spire's staff will continue to work for the new owners.

"It's very exciting," Orloff said. "As with a lot of companies, you build a base and it's very strong, but you need a new group to take the next step and build it out further."

That's what Axxella will do, Orloff said, adding that the firm is "very community-oriented."

The deal, Orloff said, "is huge for us, and it's huge for Cleveland."

Colliers International, a real estate services company with an office in Cleveland, announced that Spire was for sale in March. A purchase price wasn't immediately available, but a source told Crain's it likely was in the range of the $11.5 million value that had been set for the massive property in October 2018 by the Ashtabula County Board of Revisions.

That tally, which used information from three appraisals, was a little more than one-fifth of the $54.4 million valuation the complex had been given by the county auditor's office.

During a September 2018 board of revisions meeting, Dan Barrett, who worked with Waronzof Associates on its appraisal of Spire, said the complex was losing more than $1 million a year and would need to significantly increase the number of students at its boarding academy to break even.

In August 2018, Crain's reported that the enrollment at Spire's academy was 60, about two-thirds of whom were basketball players. Barrett estimated that Spire would need an enrollment of 127 students to make about $200,000 to $300,000 in profit.

Axxella on Monday said that it planned to expand on the college prep education, academic camps, academy sports programs and career development opportunities that Spire offers.

Spire's indoor facilities include an Olympic-sized pool, two full-sized soccer fields, the potential for six basketball or 12 volleyball courts and a fitness center, plus a 30,000-square-foot event space that overlooks the athletic fields. The complex also features an outdoor field in a stadium setting.

The transaction was brokered by Brian Hurtuk and Mark Abood of Colliers.

Axxella's website said the firm was established to build on the work of Blue Ocean Realty, a Baltimore-based commercial real estate company.

Sources told Crain's that the deal involved the entire property, and Clutter, who debuted the institute in 2009, would no longer be involved.

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