Orlando City will host a happy hour event at the Lake Nona Town Center tonight, where the team is expected to announce the construction of a 23-acre training complex, which was reported this morning by the Orlando Sentinel's Paul Tenorio and Mary Shanklin. The complex is expected to open in 2017, the same year as the new soccer stadium.
MLS clubs are trying to become more attractive landing places for players by building nicer and newer training facilities and Orlando City is entering the arms race.
Team President Phil Rawlins confirmed to the Sentinel the club was investing "upward of $20 million" on the top-notch training complex, which will house Orlando City's first team, Orlando City B and the club's U.S. Soccer Development Academy teams. From the article linked above:
"Our goal is to build one of the best [soccer] clubs in the world," Rawlins said. "Those are not marketing lines. Those goals and ambitions are what drives me every morning, every day. ... This is what we're building; this is a club that's going places. We want to be one of the best clubs in North America and we are within touching distance of that in the next few years and we will push on from there."
The soccer complex will include six practice fields, training and fitness centers, a players' clubhouse, locker rooms and a rehab and injury center. The building will also include film rooms and classrooms for Orlando City players and academy players. Additionally,Orlando City will hold an option to acquire 20-plus acres directly in front of the new facilities to expand in the future.
In building such facilities, Orlando City and clubs like expansion Atlanta United -- which is building a pricey new training facility of its own -- are emulating the top clubs in Europe. Amenities for players will give clubs a competitive advantage in luring players, much like college football programs build state-of-the-art facilities to lure top recruits.
Head Coach Adrian Heath told Tenorio in this story how important the facility will be to his club.
"I think it's going to mean everything," Heath told the Sentinel. "The fact that the ownership group is investing this amount of money shows how serious they are and it shows us how the league is growing. We're looking to bring top-class players, they need top-class facilities. That's the bottom line."
The potential for growth caused Heath to dub the new Lake Nona complex "one of the most important steps we've made since I've been here."
While it's unfortunate the club won't have all three professional teams under the same roof, the newly renovated Sylvan Lake Training Center in Seminole County will become the exclusive training home for the Orlando Pride, starting in 2017. The organization has invested more than $2 million in updating the Sylvan Lake facility with a new gym, locker room, training room, and practice fields. More from the first linked story above:
"We are endeavoring to give all of our teams the best facilities possible," Rawlins said. "The Pride get to inherit this location, which has great facilities, a gym, locker rooms, the fields themselves. This will be the best facility in the NWSL by a mile. They are really getting a great home for the future development of the women's team and the girls' academy."
Orlando City looks to continue to live by its mantra of #DeftExpectations as the club invests for the future with the possibility of a residential academy in the not-so-distant future.