The shovels were lined up across a patch of dirt, and six men in hard hats used them to dig into the ground as they posed for cameras. Construction equipment and more piles of dirt served as the backdrop in Kansas City, Kan., providing the feel of a typical groundbreaking ceremony.
But for an atypical project.
Sporting Club, U.S. Soccer and Children’s Mercy Hospital broke ground Sunday on the National Training and Coaching Development Center, a concept they are calling one of a kind in the country.
The $62 million development will serve as a home base for Sporting Kansas City and as a training and education center for U.S. Soccer coaches and referees. U.S. Soccer will employ full-time staff at the facility, located at the southeast corner of 98th Street and Parallel Parkway. It is scheduled to be completed in November 2017.
“Central to our performance on the field is the better teaching of players, better coaching, better refereeing,” said Dan Flynn, U.S. Soccer CEO and secretary general. “It all makes the product better. It’s a significant investment. I think it builds on Sporting’s strong presence in the market, as well. To be partnered with that in the community is only going to enhance the image of U.S. Soccer and hopefully the growth of our sport.”
The United States men’s, women’s and youth national teams will train at the site, Flynn said, adding that the programs will likely be in Kansas City often during the summer. U.S. Soccer is moving its full coaching and referee education programs to the site, which includes an 80,000 square-foot building. It currently has offices in Chicago and a training center in Carson, Calif.
The project also features 12 youth soccer fields at 94th Street and State Avenue, scheduled for a spring 2017 opening.
Sporting Club CEO Robb Heineman said members of his staff first approached him about the idea nearly four years ago, and they pitched U.S. Soccer in an effort to secure its involvement.
“We thought it was a long shot,” Heineman said. “But we kept asking ourselves, why can’t Kansas City do this?”
The training and development center is being designed by Populous, which also designed Children’s Mercy Park. It will be surrounded by five professional soccer fields, with plans to add two more as needed.
The building includes locker rooms, classrooms, conference rooms, a player lounge, a full kitchen and cafeteria. A 12,500 square-foot gym is blueprinted to sit in the belly of the building, containing a host of sports labs. That will connect to a new flagship Children’s Mercy Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Center, designated for athletes of all sports.
“There will be a huge population coming through this facility every year because of what the facility will have at its disposal,” said Randall O’Donnell, CEO and president of Children’s Mercy Hospital.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and Mark Holland, mayor of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan., also took part in the ceremony Sunday evening.
“This area is going to keep building and building strong and a lot, and we need it,” Brownback said. “I’m delighted that U.S. Soccer is partnering with us. We aspire to be the standard for soccer in the United States of America.”