Philadelphia Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz is pleased with the franchise’s four-year-old stadium, youth academy and overall direction after a busy offseason of marquee acquisitions.
But if there’s one thing he’s not content with, it’s the Union’s practice set-up. And he’s planning to do something about it.
“Building a practice facility is our single top priority right now,” Sakiewicz said in a conference call with reporters Wednesday. “We have several projects that we’re engaged in.”
As it stands now, the Union train out of PPL Park or at the grass fields of Chester Park, which is about a 15-minute drive from the stadium. With the team using the PPL locker rooms, Sakiewicz called the drive from Chester Park to PPL Park “very disruptive” – which is one of the main reasons why he wants to build a new facility where everything can be located in one place.
Where that place will be, however, is still not settled.
Initially, the Union seemed poised to build on the grounds of the PPL Park parking lot in Chester – plans that Sakiewicz said are “fully developed and vetted.” But because of what he called an “inconsistent” relationship with the Chester government, he noted that all development around the stadium is too risky and that, at least as of now, he doesn’t think the team will move forward with those plans.
“From an operational standpoint, we’d love nothing better than to have our first team’s practice fields right next door to our stadium,” Sakiewicz said. “From an operational standpoint, that’s the best option. But we have to weigh the business pieces to it. It’s not just about what’s convenient but about what’s good for the long-term benefit of the club.”
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It doesn’t look like the Union will stray too far from their stadium, though. Sakiewicz said the team is currently targeting two other appealing sites in Delaware County – the suburban Philadelphia county where PPL Park is located – where a multi-field facility can easily be built.
And if the Union can do that, it would not only please the team’s current players – but perhaps some of the future ones too.
“With high-profile players that are deciding to make a switch from one club to another club, always in the process is the question of what the training environment is like and what the training facility is like,” Sakiewicz said. “And you want to be able to have a positive conversation when you’re trying to recruit.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.