When you first step into “Pinnacle,” the new Sporting KC and U.S. Soccer training facility in Kansas City, KS, there aren’t really words to describe what you’re looking at. It’s clear that this facility is unlike anything else in Major League Soccer. For that matter, it may be unlike anything else in the world.
The $75 million facility, formerly called the “National Training and Coaching Development Center” by Sporting KC, is the latest crown jewel of American soccer. Less than a year ago, it was only a vision. Construction had barely begun when we last visited the facility. Despite being intimately involved with the design from the get go, Sporting KC manager and technical director Peter Vermes wasn’t even prepared for how it would turn out.
“You see it on the blueprint, you see it on some renderings, but until you start walking and living it like we are now you just can’t believe it,” Vermes said. “I’m still amazed when I walk in,” Vermes said.
He’s not alone, either.
According to Vermes, just a few weeks ago soccer legend (and now MLS owner) David Beckham visited the facility to get a look for himself. His reaction?
“I’ve been all over the world, and by far this is in the top five places easily I’ve ever seen,” Beckham said, according to Vermes.
It’s not hard to see why. This isn’t just any other training facility.
There’s a seven-acre “superpitch” that consists of three side-by-side-by-side pitches, all of which are equipped with cameras and microphones that will be transmitted to pitch side monitors live via fiber optic cables, allowing for instant film study and correction.
The Sports Performance Lab includes advanced performance and recovery technologies, including a neuropsychology office, hyperbaric chambers, a cryotherapy lab, an environmental/atmospheric chamber to simulate varying altitudes and conditions, and more.
Perhaps the coolest technology is the “Gait Lab,” which has 12 force plates in the ground and more than 23 cameras positioned around the room. Players can sprint, run or walk across the room, and the sports medicine staff will be able to tell if the player is favoring one leg or the other or has an unseen injury that needs to be addressed. “I would say there’s probably three or four [gait labs] in the world like this,” said Vermes.
The facility is almost entirely automated, too. When players walk in, they use their fob to access the facility. Vermes and his staff will know exactly when his players enter the facility, and he can set their schedule for the day even before they arrive. Say he wants to meet with Roger Espinoza at 9:30 a.m.: Vermes can set a meeting for his office with Roger, and as soon as Roger enters the facility he gets a text letting him know he has a meeting with the coach at 9:30.
Oh, and just to prove this place has everything, it also has a barbershop. And believe it or not, it was Peter’s idea.
“I realized one day that players have a barber that comes in all the time. I was leaving one day and thought ‘Why don’t we just put a small little barbershop inside?’”
Pinnacle will be used by Sporting KC as their permanent training facility, but it will also be home to year-round coaching and refereeing courses and license programs.
“From someone who has gone through all the licenses at U.S. Soccer, this is a pretty incredible advancement,” Vermes said. Everything is contained all in one place, from the classroom sessions to the dining hall to the training fields. Between the two training fields is the “Educational Pavilion” that includes white boards and television monitors with immediate field footage to allow participants to instantly review their on-field exercises.
“For U.S. Soccer, for coaching education, referee education and national teams, they’ve never had anything like this ever. It probably comes at the best time with the failure of this past World Cup,” Vermes said. “There’s no way that they would’ve thought that they would get to be a part of something like this.”
So, what happens if a rival coach is at the facility for a license course and Sporting KC is training right outside?
“There will be times when we have a training where I don’t really want anybody to see,” Vermes said. “We have the ability to hit one button and it drops shades on all the windows on this side and blacks out the whole side of the building. So I’ll be hitting that pretty regularly.”
Vermes expects that not only will this help with improving on field play but also recruiting international players.
“What’s always the difficulty is getting the player here. If you get him here this place sells itself,” Vermes said. “We get the guy here, he’s signing and probably for less money.”
All in all, Peter Vermes couldn’t be happier with the way the facility turned out. “To be a player and have this type of opportunity is incredible,” Vermes said.
Sporting KC defender Graham Zusi echoed Peter’s awe of the new facility. “It is by far the best facility I’ve ever been to or ever seen,” he said.
Roger Espinoza agrees. “This is amazing. I don’t know how you can describe this place to people. I’ve never been to one like this before.” he said. “Just to have a place like this tells you a lot about how the ownership cares about the club and the players, their expectations and where they want to be at.”
“We’re all really lucky to have this,” said Zusi. “I think the only thing they forgot was a dog park.”
Learn more about Pinnacle at PinnacleNDC.com.