Vermont Business Magazine Mikaela Shiffrin is its latest star in what could be many more coming from Burke Mountain Academy. BMA celebrated the grand opening of the Ronnie Berlack Center (RBC) – a $2.8 million, 15,000 square foot, state of the art indoor athletic facility – this past weekend marking a new era for the athletic development of Burke student-athletes and ski racers around the country. BMA also announced on Tuesday a comprehensive new partnership with the US Ski and Snowboard Association for year round training and development of elite ski racers from around the Eastern region and around the US, which is the first of its kind.
The Burke Mountain Resort will also participate in the agreement. The resort and BMA are legally separate, but BMA has agreements to use the resort's trails and lifts. EB-5 receiver Michael Goldberg said that the BMA/US Ski Team partnership will benefit the resort and the Burke Mountain Hotel, both of which were caught up in the EB-5 fraud case revealed last April.
Shiffrin won Olympic gold in the slalom in Russia in February 2014 when she was 18 and then graduated high school from BMA a few months later. She's dominated the World Cup slalom circuit for the last three years and in November won at Killington (Great day for Shiffrin, great weekend for Vermont skiing).
According to a press release, the RBC will be home to BMA’s recently launched high performance initiative featuring a sport science, research and technology-driven approach to strength and conditioning, sports psychology, sports medicine, nutrition, athletic movement, injury rehabilitation and coaches development and education.
Students work out at the new Ronnie Berlack Center at Burke Mountain Academy. Photos courtesy BMA.
Luke Bodensteiner, executive vice president, athletics for USSA, was on hand for Saturday’s dedication of the RBC and to officially name BMA’s Ronnie Berlack Center as a US Ski Team High Performance Center and BMA’s on-hill training venue at Burke Mountain as a US Ski Team Development Site, which are the first of what Bodensteiner hopes will be many such centers around the country.
As a US Ski Team High Performance Center, Burke will collaborate with the USSA’s Park City-based Center of Excellence and other future high performance centers to share best practices in sport science and sports medicine and serve as a site to host training and education sessions for USSA clubs in the region. As US Ski Team Development Site, Burke will provide training days on its mountain for regional and national development projects, as well as access for US Ski Team athletes.
“The Ronnie Berlack Center is a wonderful way to remember Ronnie for future generations. At the same time, it will become a center to not only serve Burke athletes, but others across the Eastern region as a US Ski Team High Performance Center,” said USSA President and CEO and native Vermonter Tiger Shaw. “The relationship with Burke Mountain Academy, both at its alpine training venue on Burke Mountain and at the new Ronnie Berlack High Performance Center, is part of our vision to partner with leading clubs and programs around the country, not only to provide world class training opportunities for the U.S. Ski Team, but also to bring US Ski Team knowledge and programming to the regions through our partners, with the goal of building the best athletic development pipeline in the world.”
“The RBC is a dream come true and, together with the new USSA partnership, marks an exciting new chapter in BMA’s 46-year history,” said Jory Macomber, BMA’s Head of School and alumnus from the class of 1980. “BMA has always been known for pushing the boundaries in the realm of athletic preparation. This legacy and the new facility infrastructure with the Ronnie Berlack Center and the on-going on-hill improvements affords us the opportunity to give back to other athletes as a U.S. Ski Team High Performance Center and U.S. Ski Team Development Site. We’ll work closely with the USSA and collaborate broadly with all clubs and programs in the region and around the country to develop and share best practices and to support Tiger’s vision of collaboration as a means to strengthening our country’s ski racing development pipeline,” adds Macomber.
The RBC and improved mountain racing venue at Burke will be easily accessible to skiers throughout the East, which includes over half the USSA’s more than 35,000 members. These skiers, along with national team athletes, will be able to train at Burke Mountain and use the RBC in conjunction with their clubs through rental agreements with BMA and Burke Mountain. Burke Mountain resort is participating in the initiative with attractive ski ticket and accommodation packages at its brand new slope side Burke Mountain Hotel Resort & Conference Center, aimed at making Burke Mountain the destination ski resort for alpine ski racers.
Steve Berlack, BMA’s men’s U16 coach and development leader for the project, whose son – former US Ski Team member Ronnie Berlack – the RBC was named after posthumously added, “Cindy and I are thrilled that Ronnie’s relentless drive for excellence is being honored through this incredible facility and partnership with the US Ski Team. Ronnie would be so proud of what we’ve achieved in less than two years.”
BMA attained the required $2.8 million funding for the building’s conception, construction and short term operational expense coverage over a nine-month silent campaign. A second fundraising phase was recently launched to create a $6 million endowment fund to support the ongoing development and implementation of high performance programming including the hiring of expert staff and the purchase of sophisticated training, rehab and testing equipment.
“This project would not have been possible without the significant contributions of highly engaged and dedicated BMA students, parents, alumni and donors,” shared Willy Booker, Chairman of BMA’s board of trustees and alumnus from the class of ‘96. “We’re eager to keep the momentum going with the next phase of fundraising to ensure this project produces major value for the entire ski community.”
Governor-elect Phil Scott issued the following statement Tuesday night on the agreement to make Burke Mountain a High Performance Training Center for the US Ski Team:
“Today’s announcement that Burke Mountain will be named as a High Performance Training Center for the US Ski Team is a strong endorsement of Vermont’s ability to offer world-class winter training facilities and outdoor recreation destinations.
“This partnership, which will bring some of our nation’s most talented athletes and trainers to Vermont for up to 40 days per year, is an exciting opportunity to further showcase Vermont’s appeal as a top winter sports and tourism destination and as a great place to live and work. It is an especially meaningful development for the Northeast Kingdom. It will bring new visitors to the region who will rent lodging, support local businesses and share their experiences with many others. Capitalizing on tourism and our outdoor recreation resources is one part of a larger strategy to grow our workforce and support Vermont businesses, so I am very encouraged by this partnership.
“Congratulations to the Burke Mountain Academy on this agreement. On behalf of all Vermonters, we look forward to welcoming the US Ski Team and we are proud to support their training needs.”
The receiver now in charge of the Jay Peak and Burke Mountain resorts petitioned for, and received, court approval to be involved in the BMA/US Ski Team deal.
Because the Burke Mountain Resort and the new Burke Mountain Hotel were caught up in the EB-5 fraud case involving the ownership of it and Jay Peak Resort, receiver Michael Goldberg asked the US District Court in Miami on december 20 for permission for Burke Mountain to participate. BMA and the resort are separate legal entities, but the ski school is associated with the resort and already has deals involving use of trails and lifts.
Goldberg said in his motion to the court that approving a relationship with the ski school will benefit all entities involved:
“Subject to the Court's approval, on Behalf of Burke 2000, LLC, the Receiver has entered into a three party contract with the US Ski and Snowboard Association, the national governing body of Olympic skiing and snowboarding, and the Burke Mountain Academy, the leading ski racing academy in the United States that has produced numerous Olympians and National US Ski Team members, whereby Burke Mountain will be designated an "Official US Ski Team Development Site"—the first such designation in the United States— thereby obtaining the prestige and promotional opportunities attendant therewith. Pursuant to this agreement, members of the United States Ski Team will train at Burke Mountain and competitions amongst the best up and coming skiers in the United States will take place at Burke Mountain. Simply put, entering into this contract makes complete sense and is expected to raise the prestige of Burke Mountain, and in turn, drive hotel room sales. This is a unique opportunity to set Burke Mountain apart from the 14 other ski resorts operating in Vermont and from all others in the Northeastern United States and will also enable the Burke Mountain Hotel's sister resort, the Jay Peak Resort, to capture overflow room demand during competitions. Accordingly, the Receiver strongly believes that the Court should approve this motion (dated December 20, 2016 and so ordered the next day).”
“Fortuitously, Burke Mountain is the home of the Burke Mountain Academy ("BMA"), the leading ski racing academy in the United States that has produced numerous Olympians and National U.S. Ski Team members. In fact, over the past 40 years, BMA has produced 33 Olympians, 138 National Team Athletes, 117 US Ski Team members and Mikaela Shiffrin, the 2014 Olympic slalom gold medalist and reigning Olympic and world champion in slalom. BMA is situated at the base of Burke Mountain just steps away from the Burke Mountain Hotel.”
“Simultaneously with the USSA and BMA entering into the USSA/BMA Agreement, the Receiver entered into an agreement with USSA and BMA (the "USSA Agreement"), subject to the Court's approval, pursuant to which Burke Mountain will be designated an "Official U.S. Ski Team Development Site"—the first such designation in the United States.”
“As such, Burke Mountain and BMA will host competitions, training projects and development camps each season during the ten year term of the USSA Agreement and it is expected that Burke Mountain will also host national championships, Nor-Am races and regional championships. Throughout the term of the USSA Agreement, Burke Mountain will be designated an "Official US Ski Team Development Site" and shall have the use of USSA's US Ski Team Mark and the ability to cobrand logo wear and other items identifying Burke Mountain as such. Additionally, USSA will use its best efforts to promote Burke Mountain on all U.S. Ski Team social media sites, websites, e-newsletters, Twitter, Instagram and RSS Feeds—including placing a direct link on its website acknowledging Burke Mountain as an Official US Ski Team Development Site along with a link to the Burke Mountain Hotel's webpage. In short, by partnering with USSA and BMA, the Burke Hotel will receive significant additional national exposure among skiers which should directly increase hotel room, food and ski lift sales.”
“In return for this designation and exposure, the Burke Mountain Hotel has agreed to provide non-exclusive lift access free of charge for US Ski Team training and athletic development projects for up to forty competition period days per season for up to 20 athletes per day and half price ski lift access for all non-US Ski Team members attending sanctioned development projects as further detailed in the USSA Agreement. On competition and training days, Burke Mountain will also designate exclusive lanes to be utilized by USSA for development purposes which is already provided for in existing easement agreements between Burke 2000, LLC and BMA. The Receiver has reviewed this commitment with his ski operations crew who have assured him that this non-exclusive use of the lift and exclusive use of designated ski lanes on a few trails will not impact recreational skiers (in fact, this already takes place pursuant to an easement agreement BMA has with Burke 2000, LLC). The Burke Hotel will also honor published preferred hotel room rates for midweek, non-holidays for US Ski Team athletes.”
“The USSA Agreement is extremely beneficial to the Burke Mountain Hotel because it is expected to significantly increase its national and regional exposure through its affiliation with USSA and its 35,000 members—more of half of which are situated in the Eastern United States. It will also set Burke Mountain apart from the 14 other ski resorts in Vermont and all others in the Northeastern United States as novice skiers will be able to ski on the same mountain where current and future Olympians train. This increased exposure is expected to increase room sales at the Burke Mountain Hotel both during the mid-week when athletes are competing and training as well as throughout the year due to increased notoriety. Again, entering into this agreement makes complete sense and is a coup for Burke Mountain and the Burke Mountain Hotel.”
Ronnie Berlack Center
- Indoor athletic turf field: 6,100 sf
- Circuit/weight area: 4,700 sf
- Outdoor turf field: 3,750 sf
- Classrooms – 1
- ATC – Sports rehabilitation area
- 2 offices
- Mezzanine: 800 sf
- Total gross building area: approximately 15,000 sf
- Groundbreaking: May 2016
- Opening: December 17, 2016
- Project building design and construction costs: $2.8 M (includes 3 years of operational expense coverage)
- Building designer: JB Clancy (BMA ’88) of Albert, Righter & Tittmann Architects, Inc.
Source: East Burke, VT (December 20, 2016) – Burke Mountain Academy. Phil Scott. burkemtnacademy.org/skiing/ronnie-berlack-center/