CHESTER, Pa. – The Philadelphia Union’s training facility has a new name. Now, the club hopes, it will develop a new reputation as one of the world’s best.
During a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday to announce a partnership with Power Home Remodeling and celebrate the facility's official opening, Union brass described the newly named Power Training Complex as a game-changer that will be the envy of the rest of MLS – and even other team around the globe.
“When it comes to all the clubs I’ve worked for, this is unique,” Union sporting director Earnie Stewart told MLSsoccer.com. “This is mind-blowing.”
“I’ve been to a lot of places in England, a lot of places in Germany, in top leagues,” head coach Jim Curtin added. “You’d be surprised where this one would stack up against them. It’s special.”
The Union have been using the 16,500-square foot indoor facility and the adjacent training fields for most of the year but Thursday’s event marked something of an official milestone for the club and owner Jay Sugarman.
And now Sugarman plans to follow his investment in the training facility – and the hiring of Stewart and the launching of USL affiliate Bethlehem Steel FC – with other important moves, stating that the club is “only halfway there” with still a lot more work to do.
“Atleast now I’m spending most of my time on strategic things that really add to the Union, whereas in the first five years, there were a lot of issues that needed to be taken care of,” the owner said. “I think you’re seeing a new Union where the decisions that are being made fit into a larger strategy. And I’m really excited about and really confident about it.”
One of the issues in the team’s early years was certainly its practice setup as the players were bussed to and from a public park in Chester – which Curtin admitted made for a “tough first impression” when they were recruiting players.
Now that they can sell a state-of-the-art building that includes a weight training area, a physical therapy and sports science development area, nutrition center, locker rooms, a video theater and a players’ lounge, they believe they can attract much better players from overseas – with the recent acquisition of Alejandro Bedoya serving as a primary example.
“Once you want to bring players in, you have your pitch,” Stewart said. “And we use this. We use our stadium, we use our training fields and we use this facility we have now in telling them what we’re trying to do. On the outside, people that are looking in are already seeing that there are significant changes happening with the Philadelphia Union.”
The Union especially like the facility’s combination of history and modernity as they revitalized a very old machine shop and storage facility while keeping the facade, which Curtin said “fits the city and its blue-collar elements.” The Union coach also praised the “well thought-out” design of the coaches’ offices, and added that he’s noticed throughout the year that his players “enjoy coming to work every day” when they walk into the building.
Perhaps that’s one reason why the Union, despite a five-game winless streak, are on the cusp of qualifying for the playoffs for the first time in five years. And it’s another reason why they hope to keep charging forward for many years to come, with the Power Training Complex serving as a critical building block.
“If we’re going to attack the highest-quality talent who wants to play here, we need to have facilities to stand up to that level,” Sugarman said. “You guys know the story in the first couple of years, — we were playing on a public-park field. Our players were not being taken care of the way they needed to be. This facility, I think, puts us in the upper echelon of MLS.”