National soccer training center set to be unveiled in KCK

Courtesy of Sporting Club

The plans were unveiled publicly for the first time in July 2014, with businessmen and politicians backing a proposal to build a National Training and Coaching Development Center for U.S. Soccer in Kansas City, Kan. Their grandeur was illustrated with an artist rendition sitting on an easel inside Children’s Mercy Park.

For nearly two years, that picture has provided the best representation of the group’s vision.

But that begins to change this weekend.

Sporting Club, in conjunction with the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Children's Mercy Hospital, will hold a groundbreaking ceremony for the state-of-the-art soccer facility at 5 p.m. Sunday.

“It’s been a long time in the works, with a lot of planning, designing and approvals, but I think it’s a really important day for our continuing attempt to grow the game – not just in Kansas City but the entire United States,” Sporting Club CEO Robb Heineman said. “This is a world-class asset.”

So, what is it? And when can we expect it?

The $62-million project, funded with sales tax revenue (STAR) bonds, includes an 80,000 square-foot facility and 17 surrounding soccer fields spread across two sites, both bordering Schlitterbahn water park.

The two-story building, which will sit on the southeast corner of 98th Street and Parallel Parkway, is scheduled for completion in October 2017, Heineman said. It will serve as the coaching and referee training grounds for U.S. Soccer, which has signed on to be a tenant of the building and will employ full-time staff in Kansas City. The facility will also be the official training site for Sporting Kansas City.

The remainder of the project will be located at 94th Street and State Avenue, and it will include 12 youth soccer fields, which are scheduled for a spring 2017 opening.

U.S. Soccer, which considers Carson, Calif., its headquarters, will possess the option of having its men’s, women’s and youth national teams train in Kansas City when appropriate, with two locker rooms designated for their use.

“A lot of those decisions will be made by the coaches, but the great thing is we had a lot of great collaboration with the coaches, and we’ve tried to accommodate their wants and desires,” Heineman said. “Our belief is that this will be a superior option to anything they have, and therefore it will be a first-choice pick for them.”

The training and development center — designed by Kansas City’s Populous, which also designed Children’s Mercy Park — will provide a one-stop shop for U.S. Soccer national teams and their coaching and referee education programs. Its features include player living room lounges, classrooms, film rooms, dining rooms and a cafeteria equipped with a full kitchen and Shakeology bar.

The core of the building includes an 8,000 square-foot gym, connecting the U.S. Soccer and Sporting KC branch to the Children’s Mercy Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Center. The Children’s Mercy wing, funded separately from the STAR bonds, occupies 26,500 square feet, specifically designed for youth athletes of all sports in Kansas City. The gym also includes hydrotherapy pools, the floors of which can be elevated and lowered.

Inside the facility, coaches, referees and players can observe two fields, referred to in the blueprints as the “coaching laboratory.” Nearby, three more professional-sized fields are stocked with cameras that will feed live broadcasts indoors.

“We’re trying to take all these amenities, some of which may exist in bits and pieces, and put them all in one place,” said David Ficklin, the vice president of development for Sporting Club. “We’re building something that we believe is incredibly unique and prepared it for anyone who might use it. In that sense, we’ve taken the same thought process that we used to build the stadium and applied it to this project.”

Sporting Kansas City will migrate from its Swope Park location either late in the 2017 season or to open its 2018 campaign. Its first-year USL program, the Swope Park Rangers, will take over the current facility, along with the Sporting Academy teams.

“This facility is unbelievable. It really is,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said. “I think it’s going to wind up being a great recruiting tool in the future, as well, because there’s not going to be another one like it in this country. It’s going to take on a life of its own. I think people are going to be amazed when they see it.”