Ripken becomes sole owner of Columbia training center; LifeBridge Health transfers its stake


Orioles All-Star Cal Ripken Jr. has assumed ownership from partner LifeBridge Health of a Columbia athletic training center that bears his name, the Cal Ripken Jr. Sports Acceleration Center.

Ripken intends to expand the center, change its name and add programs and outlets. Eventually the operation, which provides advanced training for amateur and professional athletes, could expand nationwide, said Ira Rainess, president of the center and head of Ripken's commercial operations.

"People throughout the country have tried to find a formula that works in this niche market; I think we have found the right model," Rainess said.

Details will be released in about a month, he said. The retooled Ripken center is to cater to a broader range of athletes, including weekend warriors looking to improve their golf strokes, basketball jump shots and strength. It will also add a sports medicine component with physical and occupational therapy and perhaps even injury research, Rainess said.

Currently, the center offers a range of custom-designed programs, most lasting six to eight weeks, costing $400 to $550 and stressing speed and agility. It attracts mostly high schoolers, but also some college athletes and professionals. Ripken teammates B. J. Surhoff and Mike Bordick trained there last year.

The center is to remain an alternative to a standard health club, although it may offer continuing memberships. It also is to remain the Baltimore-Washington region's exclusive franchisee for the Frappier Acceleration Program, a patented conditioning system developed by exercise physiologist John Frappier.

The center opened in May 1998 and has served about 1,000 clients, Rainess said. Ripken and LifeBridge, operator of a number of health care facilities, including Sinai Hospital, are parting on good terms, he said.

"We both had different ideas of what the facility could be and can be," Rainess said.

LifeBridge, which had an endorsement contract with Ripken related to the center, transferred its stake to the player in exchange for the cancellation of the contract, Rainess said.

Jill Bloom, director of corporate communications for LifeBridge, said the company is looking to consolidate its core business in the face of state-ordered rate reductions and other financial pressures.

"The health care environment in Maryland has really gotten difficult lately; we thought it was best to focus on our core missions," Bloom said.

Ripken, who is 39 and has been troubled by back problems -- the most recent of which was revealed yesterday -- has taken several steps to prepare for a post-playing career. He has established a chain of baseball schools and a fantasy camp that bear his name.

Pub Date: 9/23/99

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