Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes directed a group of 35 people down a passageway Monday, serving as the unofficial tour guide for a $75 million structure. On his left, he pointed toward a cryotherapy room, designed to accelerate muscle recovery. On his right, there was a hypobaric chamber, a room with adjustable altitude. After a step backward, he explained the benefits of another space with motion analysis.
And on it went.
“You see the blueprints and the renderings and you have a vision, but seeing it and walking in here, it’s still hard to believe,” he said. “I’m still amazed every time I walk in here.”
The national soccer training center, a vision spearheaded by Sporting KC nearly six years in the making, was officially unveiled to media members on Monday. It will be referred to as Pinnacle.
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Pinnacle, funded primarily through Kansas sales tax revenue (STAR) bonds, will serve as the new full-time training home for Sporting KC, which previously occupied Swope Soccer Village. Located on the southeast corner of 98th Street and Parallel Parkway, it will house three tenants. U.S. Soccer has moved its coaching and refereeing training programs to the 50-acre site. And Children’s Mercy Sports Medicine Center occupies a branch of the lower floor, with a planned completion in April.
What truly makes Pinnacle stand out are its details — cameras lining the fields for audio and visual components, ventilation in the lockers, check-in fobs for players that alert them to daily responsibilities and a trophy wall with several openings for future hardware.
Months ago, Vermes wondered if they should add a barber shop for the players. On Monday, while guiding the tour, he proudly identified the barber chair and mirror.
“As you can see, no stone has been left unturned,” Sporting KC defender Graham Zusi said. “They thought of everything.”
The players saw the space for the first time last month. On Tuesday, they hope to practice at the facility for the first time, weather pending.
On the back side of the building sits the “super pitch,” a seven-acre setting for three natural grass fields that mimic the playing surface at Children’s Mercy Park, located one mile away. The super pitch is lined with WiFi and eight cameras.
Two weeks ago, ownership from a future Miami MLS team toured the facilities. Sporting KC president Jake Reid said he asked prospective owner and former soccer star David Beckham how they compared to overseas offerings.
“As good as any I’ve been to,” Reid recalled Beckham replying.
Reid added, “The Miami reaction is actually funny because the owners were like, ‘Wow, we haven’t budgeted enough for what we need to do.’
“To that extent, it is an arms race at some point, and I think we’ve put ourselves in position (just) as we did with the stadium. We’ve got now the best asset, in our opinion, in the sport.”
Asked about using the place as a tool for recruiting players, Vermes quipped, “If we get a player here, he’s probably signing ... and probably for less money.”
Using Populous as the architect, Sporting KC took on the heavy lifting for the project, but the plan — and hope — is for U.S. Soccer to utilize it frequently. Adjacent to the main building, two synthetic fields dubbed “the pitch lab” will be the site of year-round training for U.S. Soccer coaches and referees. A pavilion is nestled between the two fields, complete with video technology to capture the movements on the field.
The U.S. men’s and women’s national teams have open invitations to use the fields, and there are locker rooms, coaching offices and training rooms reserved for them. While none have yet committed to a specific training schedule, U.S. Soccer CEO Dan Flynn previously told The Star they will likely be here regularly during the summer. But much of that will depend on the preferences of each individual coach. Flynn last took a tour in September, when Sporting KC was playing host to the U.S. Open Cup Final.
“Even for them, I think it was hard for them to visualize what this was going to be like, let alone how they’d use it,” Vermes said. “I think now that they’ve been here and they’re seeing (everything), I think they’re starting to realize they’re going to have a lot of use. I think that’s just going to evolve over time.”
The main facility will be split among Sporting KC and U.S. Soccer personnel, along with the Children’s Mercy Sports Medicine Center. The latter includes a radiology center, an indoor turf field and basketball court, a gait lab and a workout room shared with Sporting KC players.
The primary innovation lies in the sports-medicine wing of the building. Sporting KC midfielder Roger Espinoza said the recovery options could allow players to “stay in the game longer than what you expected.”
As Sporting KC director of sports performance Mateus Manoel put it, “This is like Disney World for trainers.”
The project’s estimated $75 million price tag is separate from the $12 million bill for 12 new youth soccer fields that opened a mile to the east last June. STAR bonds contributed a total of $63 million to those two projects.