Kansas City is being considered to become a USA Gymnastics national team training center site. But with the governing body’s change in leadership and its own future still unsettled in the wake of a massive sexual abuse scandal, the USAG said it doesn’t have a timeline for its decision.
The sport’s national championships will be held Aug. 8-11 at Sprint Center, and tickets are “incredibly well-sold,” according to Katherine Fox, director of marketing and sales for The Kansas City Sports Commission. That may bode well for Kansas City’s future as discussions continue.
“Demonstrating through the ticket sales for this event that it is a hotbed for Olympic hopefuls,” Fox said, adding that Kansas City’s other attributes are its central location and its ability to get things done with the U.S. Soccer training center in Kansas City, Kansas.
But the long-term hopes for a national team training center have been delayed by USA Gymnastics’ attempt to put its own ducks in a row starting with the leadership at the top. Li Li Leung took over as the USAG president and CEO earlier this year, its third executive leader within a year.
The sport also has been dealing with the fallout from the Larry Nassar scandal; the former team physician during four Olympic games is serving essentially a life sentence for child pornography and sexual abuse after more than 350 women said Nassar abused them.
Last fall, the U.S. Olympic Committee revoked its recognition of USA Gymnastics as a governing body, but the decertification process stalled after USAG filed for bankruptcy in December, so it continues to operate.
“Establishing an athlete wellness center is an important project, and Ms. Leung is reviewing and evaluating all of our priorities as part of developing the organization’s strategic plan,” USA Gymnastics said in a statement. “As a result, our leadership team is reviewing what has been done thus far and determining next steps. Kansas City and the other cities and locations that have expressed interest are still in the running.”
When pressed, USAG said no other cities had been identified as possible sites for the training center.
USA Gymnastics also is at the heart of controversy in the Kansas City area this summer, as earlier this month two-time Olympic silver medalist Terin Humphrey was fired from her role as an athlete representative.
Humphrey, who is from Bates City, Missouri, and lives in the Kansas City area, posted a meme on her Facebook page that she said was taken out of context. The post in question had been taken down as of June 19, though her statement after her firing remained.
Humphrey said that before she was fired, she had pushed Kansas City as a site for a national team training center.
“Kansas City is the heart of America (with) its central location,” she told KCUR. “There’s no better place in the United States and that was my idea.”
Three gymnasts from the Great American Gymnastics Express (GAGE) center in Blue Springs — Leanne Wong, Kara Eaker and Aleah Finnegan — attended a national team training camp last week in Florida. All three are under final consideration to make the team for the Pan American games in Lima, Peru, which run July 26 through Aug. 11.
Greg Echlin is a freelance sports reporter for KCUR 89.3.