LAFC players impressed as "sleek" new permanent training facility unveiled

LOS ANGELES – When LAFC players walked from their locker room to the training pitch Wednesday morning, they did so through a repurposed shipping container tunnel.

It marked the second time in as many days that the club got to enjoy their new permanent training facility at Cal State University-Los Angeles, marking an end to their time across town at UCLA, where the club had been based since preseason began in January.

“Whenever an organization does things the right way, from the top facilities, the stadium, the surface that you play on every day, again it connects with how you play football,” coach Bob Bradley told reporters, standing on a new hybrid Bermuda grass pitch which appeared so well manicured, visitors figured it was artificial.

“We are so fortunate now to be able to come here every day,” Bradley said of the $30-million, 30,000-square-foot facility. “Where the field is perfect, where inside the building players can interact.”

The tunnel to the field | Photo by Alex Dwyer

The space’s seamless transition between the indoor (weight room, staff offices) and outdoor (the pitch, hydrotherapy tubs) areas make ample use of LA’s abundant sunshine and agreeable weather. But the emphasis on a free-flowing environment was also meant to cultivate daily interactions between different segments of the club, from players to coaches to staff and even the academy side, which trains a short walk away.

“[LAFC] were very clear about how they wanted this facility to function,” architecture firm Gensler’s design director Steve Chung told MLSsoccer.com. “I know that one thing that [LAFC GM] John Thorrington mentioned to us is that he liked the way in which the technical staff and the rest of the staff were together at Manchester City. That did influence his thinking on the way this facility worked.”

Aesthetically, the decision to use Arkitainer features in the expansion side’s home base — there is another shipping container inside — was part of a sweeping vision between the club and design firm Gensler, who are also spearheading the Banc of California Stadium project some 10 miles east.

Chung used words like “raw,” “gritty” and “street” during the tour to describe the inspiration behind element choices at the training facility, but contrasted them with the more “professional” and “formal” player spaces at the stadium, which will host its first game on April 29.

A view from the training pitch | Photo by Alex Dwyer

Though LAFC players will take the field at Banc of California on matchdays, their professional home will be at the training facility. To that end, everyone involved wanted to make a space future and current players would find agreeable.

After fielding several questions about last week’s derby defeat — dubbed “Ibra Day” by Bradley — forward Carlos Vela resumed his usual joviality with the media invited to tour the new facility.

“We have no excuse not to play good,” the Mexican international joked. “Because sometimes when you aren’t, you can [come to] your training facility and say, ‘Oh, the pitch is not good, I don’t like the dressing room.’ Now it’s like, if you don’t play good…”

Vela's teammate, veteran defender Steven Beitashour, filled in the blank.

“We’ve got no excuses.”

A lounge area | Photo by Alex Dwyer

Beitashour was unlucky to leave the San Jose Earthquakes before Avaya Stadium opened several years ago, then departed Vancouver Whitecaps FC just as they were completing their new training facility.

“I am happy to finally be on the receiving end,” Beirashour joked.

LAFC’s right back equated the quality of the new facility to the one at his last club, Toronto FC, with slight differences in the details.

“The storage container we walk out of? It’s cool. It’s something creative. From afar, when we look back at the building [and see] the wing? It flows nicely. It looks stylish and sleek, so it’s definitely fun to be part of.”