Manchester City Football Club, in East Manchester, England, recently opened a new facility dedicated to training both current soccer stars and future prospects in the club’s youth teams. The $312 million, four-year project forms a key part of plans both to regenerate the surrounding industrial wasteland and to enhance Manchester City FC’s standing as one of the English Premier League’s top soccer teams.
In addition to 17 pitches and three gyms constructed as part of the new facility, the site includes a 7,000 capacity stadium for the development of squad teams, Manchester City Women’s FC, and community use. Parts of the facility will be reserved for use by local schoolchildren.
“The development of top-notch training facilities by English soccer teams is of prime interest to the United States, given the ever-growing popularity of the sport here and the current interest in developing young talent,” said Eric Willin, COO, of EZFacility, a sports center management software developer in Woodbury, New York. “Teams in the MLS and other U.S.-based soccer outfits will take a cue from facilities such as Manchester City’s new one, and it won’t be long before we start to see more of them here.”
The football club’s project represents part of a larger movement within the soccer world to attract top players with state-of-the-art training facilities
James Madison University recently announced plans to construct an 8,500-seat arena to house the campus’s men’s and women’s basketball teams. The arena, set to cost $88 million, also will host public speakers, serve as the university’s convocation and graduation center, and provide space for high school graduation ceremonies, concerts, conventions, trade shows, and family-style entertainment.
Slated to feature premium seating areas, the new arena will include a club level, private suites and hospitality spaces, and pre-event spaces for students. But its central purpose will be to serve as the locus for the university’s basketball programs. It will house high-quality offices, locker rooms, training spaces, meeting rooms, and a full-court practice facility with six shooting stations.
“These days, college basketball revolves around recruiting,” observed Eric Willin, COO of EZFacility, a sports center management software developer in Woodbury, New York. “James Madison University’s new facility certainly will give the campus an edge in attracting the best student-athletes and developing their skills.”
The university has not yet announced a date for construction to begin. A fundraising goal of $12 has been set, but university officials stated that all support must be secured before construction on the project can begin. While no formal timeline has been delineated, the university is actively fundraising.
Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) received a $1 million gift for the expansion of the strength and conditioning facility at its on-campus arena. The new facility will be added to the existing arena, and will exclusively serve the university’s 250 student-athletes. Currently, the student-athletes share a weight room with the general student population.
Donors Jim and Donna Sublett wanted to increase opportunities for athletes to train intensely. In a press release, Jim Sublett said, “Many FGCU student-athletes will continue to bring honor and recognition to the university, partially because of the excellent new facility to fine-tune their bodies, skills, and talents.”
Eric Willin, COO of EZFacility, a sports facility management software developer in Woodbury, New York, remarked on the benefits of focused training for athletes. “Having access to a facility designed exclusively for athletic training will allow FGCU’s student-athletes to practice more intensely, develop a greater sense of what their bodies can do, and challenge themselves in a more community-centered atmosphere. The new strength and conditioning facility is great news for the university’s sports teams.” The Subletts’ donation represents part of a $12 million capital campaign FGCU’s athletic department is running. Approximately $7 million of that amount will allow for planned updates to the arena, including the new strength and conditioning facility, and $5 million will go toward scholarships, recruiting budgets, and additional facility enhancements.
The Atlanta Braves are proposing moving their spring training facility from the Orlando area to St. Petersburg, Florida. In a formal proposal submitted to officials of Pinellas County, where St. Petersburg is located, Braves president John Schuerholz noted that he hopes to reach an agreement to relocate by the end of the year. Construction of a new training facility would begin by next year, with completion scheduled for 2018.
Eric Willin, COO of EZFacility, a sports facility management software developer, said that the construction of a new facility would be a boon to the baseball team, which would spend less time traveling to practice space and more time on the field. “Also,” he noted, “the proposed facility includes a 10,000-seat stadium with berm seating for an additional 1,000 fans. Along with additional athletic fields and an on-site hotel, that would make the new facility a clear destination for amateur and professional sports alike.”
The Braves have trained at Disney’s Wide World of Sports in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, since 1998, but the team’s lease there expires in 2017. The St. Petersburg location is not the only one under consideration for the new facility, but Braves president John Scheurholz implied in a letter submitted to county officials that it is the most desirable one.
Most likely, any move the Braves make will include public financing. The Astros and the Nationals recently launched new training sites of their own, leaving the same Disney location that the Braves are leaving, and each team received a $108 million pledge in public funds from Palm Beach County, with the state pledging another $50 million toward costs of building and financing the planned facilities.
A Florida-based development group has launched plans for an extreme sports action park in Kissimmee, Florida. The park, dubbed The Xero Gravity Action Sports and Entertainment Resort, will include a 14-story ski and snowboard slope, a 25,000-square-foot indoor/outdoor skateboard arena, a USA-BMX-sanctioned racetrack, two sky-diving pods, two 14-story water slides, an indoor dodge ball trampoline court, a 140-foot-tall climbing wall, a river of white-water rapids, and multiple zip lines.
“Extreme sports and sports tourism are booming sectors of the fitness industry,” says Eric Willin, Chief Operating Officer of EZFacility, a sports facility management software developer in Woodbury, New York. “This is exactly the right moment for a park such as the Xero Gravity Action Sports and Entertainment Resort, and, given the other attractions in the area, the proposed location makes good business sense. This is going to be a sports complex to watch.”
The estimated cost of the complex is $309 million, and it is slated to open in 2018. Projected taxable sales for the proposed complex are estimated to be $1.97 billion over a 10-year period. Reportedly, admission to the park will cost between $35 and $95.
The Minnesota Vikings stadium stands to be the first stadium in the United States to illuminate its fields with LED installed during construction. With lower energy needs than traditional lighting and color-tuning technology, LED saves sports venues and other facilities significant amounts of money while providing more effective lighting.
The lighting has become a common feature of ice rinks in the American Hockey League, and tennis, basketball, and soccer facilities have long made use of it. But venues in the National Football League have been slow to embrace it. So far, two NFL stadiums have converted to LED — the University of Phoenix Stadium, home to the Arizona Cardinals, and the NRG Stadium, home to the Houston Texans. The Minnesota venue will be the first to incorporate LED from inception.
“There are many potential advantages to lighting a sports venue with LED,” says Eric Willin, Chief Operating Officer, of EZFacility, a sports facility management software developer in Woodbury, New York. “On a basic level, spectators often can just see better what’s happening on the field. In addition, LED lights have more functions than older lights—they can be programmed for specific effects throughout a game. But most of all, LED lighting consumes 75 to 90 percent less energy than traditional lighting systems. That’s good for the environment and translates into enormous cost savings.”
Viking officials have said that part of their goal during the $1.1 billion project has been making environmentally friendly choices. Currently in the planning phase, the stadium is slated for completion in July 2016.
The University of Colorado, Colorado Springs (UCCS), is expanding its Recreation and Wellness center in a $16.3 million project scheduled for completion in October. Currently 54,000 square feet, the renovated center will be nearly twice that size and will include additional cardio and strength equipment, multipurpose studios for group exercise, basketball courts, new men’s and women’s locker rooms, two gender-neutral restrooms, office space, a social gathering area, and a welcome center.
In addition, the facility will house a student health center and counseling center. According to UCCS officials, the facility will be the first in the nation to pull together campus recreation, a student health center, a counseling center, and elements of nutrition education under the same roof.
“More and more, especially at universities, we’re seeing a trend toward comprehensive centers that include athletic facilities, general exercise areas, and various health and recreation services,” said Eric Willin, Chief Operating Officer, at EZFacility, a fitness center management software developer in Woodbury, New York. “Bringing all these functions together makes sense, and it provides an exciting dynamic surrounding health and wellness efforts on campus.”
The existing center has been lauded for its LEED gold rating, achieved through an environmentally friendly design and construction. The expanded center also has been designed to meet LEED gold standards. Its green elements include water-efficient landscaping, on-site storm water treatment, and use of local and recycled materials in construction. An on-site touchscreen shows real-time measurements of building energy use.
A new trend is keeping adult millennials — the generation of Americans born roughly between 1980 and 2000 — in good shape: for-profit businesses that run adult sports leagues. Popping up around the country, such businesses set up teams, arrange for referees, and coordinate practice and game sites. Customers sign up as part of a team or as free agents, with costs running anywhere from $50 per person to $90 per person for a season.
Eric Willin, COO of EZFacility, a sports business software provider in Woodbury, New York, says that such for-profit leagues are a natural fit for millennials. “Members of the millennial generation tend to have grown up with schedules packed with extracurricular sports,” he says. “They learned to develop social circles through the sports they played, and they miss the physical exercise plus socializing they got through the organized teams they played for. It’s no surprise that this group is enthusiastic about competing in adult recreation leagues, and no surprise that the supply is developing to meet the demand.”
Valley Sports Leagues, in Parkland, Pennsylvania, is one company that organizes adult leagues. Operated like nonprofit youth sports groups, it coordinates teams playing a range of sports, including men’s and women’s basketball, flag football, dodgeball, and kickball. Ahmed Attia, one of the co-founders of Valley Sports Leagues, told the online publication The Morning Call, “If we could help an individual switch lifestyles to a healthier one, that’s really what we try to target. It’s kind of hard to not show up when you have teammates counting on you.” The idea that customers will seek a structure that holds them accountable to teammates is what drives for-profit adult leagues.
In general, millennials are much more receptive to this idea than are Gen-Xers, members of the preceding generation. According to Sports Marketing Surveys USA, a research company that provides data for the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, millennials are twice as likely and their Generation X counterparts to participate in team sports as adults.
The Florida Gators, the University of Florida’s intercollegiate football team, recently announced plans to construct a $15 million indoor practice facility. Currently the only team in the Southeastern Conference league to lack designated indoor practice space, the Gators were forced to miss 30 practices in 2014 because of weather-related events.
The new facility will house a 120-yard synthetic turf field, additional space for practice drills, three camera platforms, satellite training-room facilities, equipment storage, and restrooms.
“It’s crucial for a top-tier college athletic center to offer indoor practice space,” says Eric Willin, Chief Operating Officer, of EZFacility, a sports facility management software developer in Woodbury, New York. “The world of major collegiate sports is ultra-competitive. For a team like the Gators to miss out on dozens of practices because weather has held them back is simply a shame. It’ll be a huge step forward for the team to have its own indoor facility.”
When inclement weather strikes now, the Gators sometimes move into the university’s men’s and women’s basketball center or to the nearby Florida Gym. But the logistics of transferring the entire team to these locations when weather turns foul can be daunting.
The project will be funded through private gifts and capital financing. Davis Architects of Birmingham, Alabama, is the project designer. Construction began in early January, and the center is slated to be ready for use in September.
Anytime Fitness, in partnership with the Minnesota-based nonprofit Tee It Up for the Troops, recently launched Operation Heartfirst, a program that supports veterans who want to open their own Anytime Fitness franchises. The program offers honorably discharged veterans a $125,000 grant and a $125,000 loan as start-up capital for the development of an Anytime Fitness Franchise.
The program also waives Anytime Fitness’s initial franchise fee and ongoing royalty payments. It allows selected franchisees the opportunity to determine the precise location of their gyms.
“Operation Heartfirst is an innovative program in which all involved parties win,” said Eric Willin, COO, of EZFacility, a gym management software developer in Woodbury, New York. “It’s unconscionable that the unemployment rate for military veterans is significantly higher than the national average. Offering veterans a leg up with a program like Operation Heartfirst gives them and their families stability, benefits the economy, creates more opportunities for improved health in communities, and allows Anytime Fitness to grow its brand. This is truly a program to be proud of.”
Through Operation Heartfirst, Anytime Fitness provides a grant to Tee It Up for the Troops, which oversees the selection of applicants and the management of logistics. Veterans who apply must have a passion for fitness and community engagement, Anytime Fitness has stated, and must also meet other key criteria. The selection committee will give special consideration to veterans with service-related disabilities.
The first Operation Heartfirst recipient will be selected by June 1; the first club opening under the program is expected by the end of 2015.