Famed Károlyi Ranch Sold To USA Gymnastics
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Deep in the heart of Texas, champions are forged through dedication. Camp Karolyi, founded near Huntsville by world-famous gymnastics coaches Bela and Márta Károlyi, has birthed some of the greatest athletes in Olympic history. Known simply as The Ranch, the home of the dominant USA Gymnastics team will live on under new owners as the Károlyis make their retirement official.
Before heading to Rio, Bela and Márta Károlyi had one last bit of business to take care of; signing over the 32.6-acre portion of Karolyi Ranch in Sam Houston National Forest that includes training and housing operations for the USA Women's Gymnastics team.
Márta (above, with the 2016 team), the women's national team coordinator since 2001 (when Bela retired), announced her retirement from coaching, earning this batch of US gymnasts (including Houstonian Simone Biles, above, right) the nickname "the final five." Marta and Bela coached some of the best Olympic champions of all time, including Nadia Comaneci, Mary Lou Retton, Dominique Moceanu and Nastia Liukin. Since 2011 (and in an unofficial capacity, since 1984), that's been done at The Ranch outside of Houston.
The complex, which will be renamed the USA Gymnastics Athlete Development at Karolyi Ranch, includes three gyms, housing for 300, office space, training and dining facilities. Details of the unexpected transaction were not included.
The decision to buy was a no-brainer. "It has everything we could possibly ask for," USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny told the Associated Press. "Along with what it represents to our heart and soul, as a physical facility, we couldn't go out and build it. It's been custom-made for what we want and need. You add up all the elements and it's like 'Dang, what an easy decision.'"
"This is a dream come true," Bela (above) said in a statement from the federation." From the very beginning our goal has been to create something truly unique for USA Gymnastics, and over the past few years that mission has been accomplished. The transition of ownership to the federation is exactly what we envisioned."
In 1983, following the couple's defection to the US from USSR-controlled Romania, Bela purchased 40 acres of the Sam Houston National Forest. They built gymnastics facilities and cabins, opening it for camp. By 1989, the property had expanded to 2,000 acres. In 2011, the Karolyi Ranch was recognized as an Olympic training site by the United States Olympic Committee.
National Team camps are held at the ranch once a month. Gymnasts invited are National Team members as well as elite gymnasts the selectors deem to be good enough. It's not all serious business. The camp is like a second home to many gymnasts, like Simone, Aly Raisman and Alyssa Baumann, seen above, enjoying a roasted marshmallow at Camp Karolyi.
The Károlyis will keep their residence, a hunting lodge Bela built and the remaining expansive acreage. USA Gymnastics will have right of first refusal if the Károlyis decide in the future to sell off other parcels of land.