Sporting Club plans to build national soccer training center in KCK

07/23/2014 5:00 PM

07/23/2014 11:31 PM

Sporting Club CEO Robb Heineman says Kansas City is on its way to becoming the soccer capital of America. This may help his case.

In conjunction with Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and Wyandotte County officials, Heineman unveiled plans Wednesday night to construct a $75 million-plus National Training and Coaching Development Center that will serve as a home base for the U.S. Soccer Federation and its national teams. The project is pending city approval, Heineman said.

The 190-acre soccer village would be located at the southeast corner of 98th Street and Parallel Parkway in Kansas City, Kan., about a 10-minute drive across Interstate 435 from Sporting Kansas City’s stadium. The plans call for 16 fields — eight youth fields and eight lighted professional fields — and include a state-of-the-art indoor complex with a practice field.

Heineman anticipates construction for the center will start this fall, with an eye toward completion before the 2016 Copa America tournament. U.S. Soccer would move all of its coaching education to the center. The men’s, women’s and youth national teams would train at the site, though it remains to be seen how often.

“Player and coaching development is a main focus for U.S. Soccer, and we are pleased that Sporting Club is pursuing a world-class training facility to help the sport continue to grow and advance,” federation President Sunil Gulati said in a release. Gulati was not present for Wednesday’s announcement at Sporting Park.

“We’re looking forward to working with Sporting Club on the next steps toward the creation of the National Training and Coaching Development Center and anticipate it hosting our national teams and coaching education programming in the future.”

The agreement with U.S. Soccer has not yet been finalized, but the federation is discussing a 20-year lease of the facilities with two additional five-year options.

Heineman said he envisions Sporting Park turning into “a big-game site” for the men’s and women’s national teams, with both teams regularly using the training center.

“I anticipate the women will be here almost all the time, and I think the men will be here a lot,” Heineman said.

The proposed project would be funded primarily through sales tax revenue, or STAR, bonds, though it won’t require an increase in sales tax, Brownback said. The project requires city approval and approval from Kansas Secretary of Commerce Pat George.

Brownback and George said they foresee no obstacles at the state level, and Kansas City, Kan., Mayor Mark Holland offered his support of the project during Wednesday’s news conference.

The training and development center — set to be designed by Kansas City’s Populous, which also designed Sporting Park — would feature a climate-controlled 100,000-square-foot indoor pavilion, beach training courses, running courses and “futsal” courts. Futsal is a sized-down version of soccer that’s usually played five-on-five on a tennis court surface.

Plans also call for the pavilion to be attached to a 125-room, extended-stay hotel.

Heineman and Sporting Kansas City manager Peter Vermes will meet with U.S. men’s national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann next week to seek his input on some of the dynamics of the facilities.

“We’ve got to be strategic about that. The coach is always going to have the decision to go where they want to go,” Heineman said. “If you just think of the facilities they have in the country right now, there’s nothing like this. So we have to blow them away with what we have.”

The training center would also hold men’s, women’s and youth training camps, national coaching courses, referee training sessions and U.S. Soccer Federation meetings.

EPR Properties CEO David Brain said Wednesday there will be “substantial further development on that quadrant of land” that will be constructed simultaneously with the soccer complex.

The National Soccer Coaches Association of America, already located in Wyandotte County, would be expected to move its operations to the National Training and Coaching Development Center.

With eight youth soccer fields, the facility would plan to host regular youth tournaments, camps and clinics, including an annual 16- and 14-and-under international youth tournament in conjunction with the U.S. Development Academy. Heineman said it’s possible those tournaments’ championship games could be played at Sporting Park.

The project would also help Sporting Kansas City fulfill its long-standing obligation to construct three youth soccer fields that Wyandotte County can use, though the original plans have changed. Heineman said 10 futsal facilities would be built within the county instead of the three fields, and the National Training and Coaching Development Center would help facilitate futsal leagues.

Sporting KC agreed to build those three fields as part of its agreement to receive $230 million in state and local tax subsidies to construct Sporting Park. Heineman said the futsal courts — two of which were built at Wyandotte High School last summer and displayed during MLS All-Star week in 2013 — were chosen instead of full-sized fields because of the rising popularity of futsal.

The training center would also include a sports science institute. Heineman said Sporting Club has had ongoing discussions with Gatorade about operating that wing. The club also has spoken to a renowned hydration doctor about installing a hydration lab at the indoor facility.

Sporting Club commissioned an economic and fiscal-impact study by Conventions, Sports & Leisure International regarding the training and development center. The economic benefit study estimates the training complex would generate more than $48 million in new, net tax revenues for Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan., over the initial 30 years after construction, and they would generate more than $75 million in tax revenues for the state of Kansas.

The study also estimates that development of the project could support jobs equating to more than $1.5 billion in earnings over the 30-year term, as well as 244 full-time-equivalent jobs for Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan., during construction and 529 full-time-equivalent jobs during annual operations of the facilities. The state of Kansas, according to the study, could support 564 jobs during construction and 446 during operations.

To reach Sam McDowell, call 816-234-4869 or send email to smcdowell@kcstar.com.

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