South Bay city may use Olympic Training Center to attract four-year university

CHULA VISTA, Calif. - Ideas are being tossed around about trading Olympic glory for college athletics. It is just an idea for now for Chula Vista's new City Manager Gary Halbert.

"The Olympic Training Center is insanely wonderful," said Halbert in his office at Chula Vista City Hall Wednesday.

The center has trained hundreds of Olympians across many disciplines since it opened in 1995. Unfortunately, the United States Olympic Committee is reviewing its business and training models and could give up ownership of the OTC to Chula Vista.

Halbert said the city would only take over the training center if it could operate it in the black, without a loss to taxpayers. Then, the city could entice a university by offering the training center as its athletic complex.

Halbert inherited a city rebounding from devastating budget cuts and layoffs. That rebound includes the ambitious 550-acre Bayfront Master Plan. It also includes Chula Vista's long-term goal of having its own four-year university. The city has the support of several state representatives, including Assemblywoman Shirley Weber.

By the end of the year, Halbert expects to secure 375 acres for a university site.

"It would be wonderful if we could say, 'Well, this is the place for the next California State University or University of California,'" he said.

Halbert said he envisions the university wrapped around High Tech High and bordering vast new neighborhoods, mixing with an innovation district where students can leave class and walk to an internship in high-tech or the bio-tech industry.

"Think of a more dense, urban environment with multi-story buildings," said Halbert. "And the demographics of Chula Vista today are the demographics of the entire United States in 2050."

Halbert said the training center would be another carrot that brings a university to the South Bay.

"For maybe their athletic programs, maybe they're doing sports medicine, maybe they're doing degrees around sports innovation," he said.

Chula Vista is still discussing taking over the Olympic Training Center with the United States Olympic Committee.

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