Karolyi Ranch, former training site for female Olympic gymnasts, is now sold
HOUSTON –The Karolyi Ranch, a sprawling 1,687-acre property north of Houston that was once the summer training site for female Olympic gymnasts, has a new owner with potentially different interests than gold medalists.
Voyager Group LTD bought the property for $6,000,000 from a business entity run by Bela and Marta Karolyi, according to county clerk documents obtained by KPRC 2 Investigates.
The group is linked to Timberwood Management Group, a business entity affiliated with Steely Lumber, a producer of Huntsville Southern Yellow Pine Lumber.
Steely Lumber declined to discuss the transaction or plans for the property.
KPRC 2 Investigates also learned that shortly after the deal was struck, Bela and Marta Karolyi left the country to return to their native Romania to visit relatives over the summer.
“They’re not very healthy and it takes a lot of upkeep on the ranch, and they just couldn’t do it anymore,” said David Berg, the attorney representing the Karolyis.
The Karolyis were once the first coaches of elite gymnasts. In fact, USA Gymnastics designated the Karolyi Ranch as an official training site in 2011.
The deal was canceled in 2018 after it was learned that ex-team doctor Larry Nassar had sexually assaulted young athletes at several locations, including the ranch.
The Karolyis were exonerated and never charged with a crime.
Nassar will most likely die in prison for his multiple crimes against young elite athletes. His only federal sentence should keep him incarcerated until the age of 105.
The Karolyis still face multiple civil lawsuits related to the incidents.
The ranch, which still displays a sign warning parents they are not allowed into the training center, appeared mostly empty on a recent visit to the property, which is located on a dirt road uneven in the Sam Houston National Forest.
“There were school buses going up and down the road several times a week,” recalls Ramona Bellipanni, who lives near the property.
Those days now seem to be over for good, and since then Karolyi’s training camp has been widely maligned by gymnasts and their lawyers.
“It was dirty. They weren’t well fed. They had no privacy. The toilets were disgusting and they didn’t have access to regularly call their parents,” said Michelle Simpson Tuegel, an attorney who represents several athletes in their civil lawsuits.
Communication with the outside world for the girls, some of whom are pre-teens, is now a highlighted issue at Karolyi Ranch.
Katie Nakamura, who won two world gymnastics titles, was not one of Nassar’s casualties, by her own account. But at a young age, she noted the stress it caused her to be isolated from her family while training at the facility.
“There was never cell service so I couldn’t really talk to my parents because the service was super poor,” Nakamura said.
While the ranch may be history, the horror experienced by many young athletes at the ranch is not.
Dozens of civil lawsuits targeting Nassar, USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic Committee remain unsolved. This includes civil suits naming the Karolyis.
USA Gymnastics’ bankruptcy filing further complicated the matter.
In Walker County, criminal charges against former USA Gymnastics CEO Steve Penny are still pending.
Penny faces a forgery charge, after being accused of ordering the removal of documents from the Karolyi Ranch.
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