Prior to tonight's friendly with Manchester City, Sporting Club CEO Robb Heineman was joined by Governor Sam Brownback, Mayor Mark Holland of the Unified Government (Kansas City, KS, and Wyandotte County), EPR Properties David Brain and Schlitterbahn CEO Mark Henry for a major announcement, one that could affect the growth of the game, not just in Kansas City, but in the United States as a whole.
Heineman formally announced the construction of a U.S. Soccer National Training Center complex in Kansas City, KS. The $75 million facility will include 100,000 square feet for a state of the art indoor facility with a practice field, eight lighted professional smart fields, and eight youth fields.
That's pretty cool, right? It's much better than that. The complex will also house a climate-controlled indoor pavilion and specialized areas for strength and nutrition, sports science, health and wellness, hydration as well as video and analytics. For the players, coaches and referees coming to the facility for training, there will also be a 125-room hotel.
In a statement, U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati said, "Playing 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." He added the federation is looking forward to working with the club on the creation of the center. Gulati anticipates it will host the national teams and coaching education programming in the future.
Heineman said that this project is part of the club's overall vision and strategy for helping the United States win the World Cup. The club's pursuit of the complex is not completely altruistic, though. While one of the goals is helping the country find success on the world stage, this center will also help the club as it tries to build a dynasty and separate itself from the rest of the pack in MLS.
Heineman also said that one of the reasons to build the facility here is to give kids something to aspire to. They'll be able to see the national team train and play here and it will give them a goal to chase. It certainly doesn't hurt there are two Sporting KC players on the national team at the moment.
Heineman anticipates the STAR bonds approval process to take approximately 90 days and doesn't foresee any problems. The state government has been aware of the project for the last 14-16 months and Governor Brownback said no legislative action would be necessary. Mayor Holland said the development agreement would be vetted by the county commission and voted on.
The main reason no one anticipates any problems? The center is projected to have an economic impact on the area to the tune of $1 billion. That's right, billion with a "b." Tournaments can be held on the fields at the complex, which will help hotels and restaurants and the complex will also provide lots of jobs.
This was a pretty epic day in a pretty epic month for soccer in Kansas City. People like Alexi Lalas and MLS's Dan Courtemanche were tweeting things like the city is strengthening their hold on their soccer-capital status. It's a fun time to be a soccer fan in Kansas City.
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