The latest example of Kansas City’s soccer expansion is on the way. This time, its impact will stretch to the U.S. national teams.
A national education and training center received its final approval Thursday for construction in Kansas City, Kan., with plans for the facilities to serve as the home base for U.S. Soccer and its national teams.
The Unified Government Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to authorize the $62-million project, which will occupy 174 acres across two patches of land neighboring Schlitterbahn water park, less than a 10-minute drive from Sporting Park.
“It’s a project that we’ve worked on for maybe three years now. To finally get it to conclusion is a huge deal," said Sporting Club CEO Robb Heineman, a member of OnGoal, which owns Sporting Kansas City and has served as the developer of the training facility. “I think it shows the commitment of the city, the state and OnGoal to move soccer forward in this area and in this country.”
In conjunction with Kansas governor Sam Brownback and Wyandotte County officials, Heineman first unveiled plans last July for the soccer village, which will be funded primarily through sales tax revenue (STAR) bonds.
U.S. Soccer has agreed to a 20-year lease to be the primary tenant of the training center, Heineman said.
According to the proposal submitted to the Unified Government on Thursday, the project will be completed sometime in 2017. Minimal construction has already started on the site in anticipation of the project’s approval, most notably the clearing of trees in the area.
The state-of-the-art training center — a 100,000-square-foot indoor pavilion set to be designed by Kansas City’s Populous — will encompass 44 acres on the southeast corner of 98th Street and Parallel Parkway. The center will include the equivalent of 4 to 6 professional outdoor soccer fields, along with an indoor complex that will feature sports medicine and nutrition labs, training facilities and education spaces for coaches, among other items that have not yet been finalized. There will also be at least one climate-controlled indoor field.
Heineman said OnGoal has met with U.S. men’s national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann and federation president Sunil Gulati to seek input into the dynamics of the facilities.
“I think they will be here a lot,” Heineman said. “I think we’ll have national team coaches here probably 300 days per year. As far as the national teams go, at the end of the day, the coaches have that decision, but I think when we’re able to show this facility for what it is, it will be a no-brainer for them."
The remaining 130 acres of the project will sit on the corner of 94th Street and State Avenue, an area slated to house 12 outdoor fields that will be used primarily for youth soccer. Heineman said he envisions that site hosting regular youth tournaments, camps, clinics and development academies, possibly in collaboration with other tournament fields in the metropolitan area. Wyandotte County residents will receive priority scheduling on those fields, Heineman said, but they will be made available to the larger public, as well.
The project will also help Sporting Kansas City fulfill its standing obligation to construct three youth soccer fields — part of its initial agreement to receive $230 million in state and local tax subsidies to build Sporting Park. Sporting KC will construct eight additional futsal facilities this year. Futsal is a fast-paced variant of soccer played on dimensions and surfaces similar to tennis courts.
“This idea of having 10 (futsal courts) instead of three (fields) and spreading them around and having this opportunity for futsal, it really became an idea that I personally got very excited about,” Kansas City, Kan., Mayor Mark Holland said during Thursday’s meeting.
Heineman spoke Thursday of the benefit across three levels — youth soccer, Major League Soccer and U.S. Soccer.
“I think it’s a huge thing for all of that — the fact that you have a city and a state that has invested in soccer twice now,” Heineman said. “It’s going to be a great thing to help keeping Sporting (Kansas City) and soccer in general viable in this region for years to come.”