By Gary Gray
Johnson City and East Tennessee State University officials will travel to Asia in early July to discuss with private investors their potential $50 million to $60 million backing of a new sports science research center.
“This is an economic recruiting trip, and the purpose of the trip is to stimulate new industry in the region,” City Manager Pete Peterson said Thursday during the City Manager’s Report at the close of the City Commission meeting. “The possibility is for construction of a facility to hold regional and national events.”
Should the deal come together, the research center would be built on 30 acres of city owned land adjacent to Innovation Park on West Market Street, and the acreage could be a gift in a potential agreement, contingent on university approval.
Peterson, Mayor David Tomita and Commissioner Todd Fowler will make the roughly 10-day journey to meet with a group of private individuals that visited the area toward the end of last year. Peterson first mentioned the possibility early this year at the close of a commission meeting, but there has been no public comment about the potential economic windfall to the area since that time.
Meg Stone, ETSU’s Sports Performance Enhancement Consortium director, told the News & Neighbor Friday that she and a contingency from the university’s Sports Science Department — including husband Mike Stone, KLSS Department of Exercise and Sports Science Laboratory director — will meet up with city officials when overseas.
The ETSU contingency will attend several conferences in Beijing, China, and Taipei, Taiwan, and join Peterson, Tomita and Fowler when they meet with the private investors about the sports science research center, she said.
Meg and Mike Stone have been at the forefront of the university becoming one of 14 Olympic training sites in 2012. She is a two-time Olympian competing in the discus for Great Britain. While working in the university system, she also coached many athletes later playing in the NBA, MLB and NFL. Before coming to ETSU, she was a coaching manager at the U.S. Olympic Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Mike Stone was the Sport at Edinburgh University chair, in Edinburgh, Scotland., from 199-2001. Prior to joining ETSU, he was the U.S. Olympic Center’s head of sports physiology. He also is an adjunct professor at Edith Cowan University in Perth Australia, Edinburgh University, Edinburgh, Scotland, and at the James H. Quillen College of Medicine, (physiology), School of Medicine, Johnson City.
Fowler, a sports medicine physician, called Mike Stone “the rock star of his field.”
“It’s a good opportunity for the city and the university,” Fowler said. “They (unnamed investors) are serious about this, and we would give them the land if things work out. There are people there where we are going that definitely are interested.
“I will probably lose thousands of dollars by leaving my business, but if we go there there’s a much better chance of them doing this. This will show to them that we really want them to come here.”