There's an important piece of context missing here, I bet. Lamas in the Tibetan tradition are trained by doing a three-year cloistered retreat, during which they practice pretty much all the time. A "spiritual boot camp," Michael's called it. (He's also said that if he had to give up any three years of his life, his years in retreat would be the last three he'd choose.)
So maybe "building a retreat center" gives a misleading impression. A closer description of what we're trying to do might be "founding a seminary." I wrote to a friend yesterday about this:
The long retreat is so central to how we train the next generation of teachers -- it's critical to the survival of the Kagyu lineage in America. We're not talking luxury, here. We're really talking about whether our kids will even have the option to practice.... what we have in my sangha is a fragile imported plant trying to put down
roots. Its contemplative traditions seem to me very rare, and very precious. And they've been driven off their native ground -- they could very easily disappear, in a generation or two.