In front of a crowd of several hundred people at the Lake Nona Town Center, Orlando City unveiled the designs for its new 23-acre, $20 million training facility that will be built just down the road.
Lions star midfielder Kaká said he has been impressed by the rapid expansion of the club, including the stadium and the newly-revealed training center, which he said will put Orlando City’s facilities on par with some of the top clubs in the world.
Kaká said he believes the facilities will play a key part in bringing high-quality players from overseas, but also in shaping the future of the club here in the U.S.
“It’s so quick and fast the way this club is growing,” Kaká said. “This is amazing. A facility like this, not too many teams can afford that, and so we have this opportunity for 2017 [and] that’s great. It’s much more than I expected, so I am so happy to be a part of this.”
Entering his second season in MLS, Kaká said he wants to play a more active role in getting Orlando City to the playoffs. The Brazilian said he has his goals set to surpass all of his statistics from last season, and to be a part of the Brazil team that plays in the Copa America Centenario in June in Orlando.
Those goals will be made more attainable with more familiarity here in Orlando, he said.
“I can say that it’s easier now because when you arrive and you don’t know even your teammates, it’s hard for everybody,” Kaká said. “Now we already know each other, so we know the travel, we know the teams we are going to face. It’s easier, but we have our responsibility to do better than the last season.”
Heath calls facility crucial
When the Montreal Impact was recruiting superstar striker Didier Drogba last season, a major selling point kept popping up.
The Impact’s new training facilities impressed Chelsea during a summer tour in North America. Club officials told Drogba, a Chelsea legend, that the club’s training center was incredibly professional. That endorsement influenced Drogba’s choice, he said.
It’s the same type of impact Orlando City coach Adrian Heath hopes his team’s new facilities will have on future recruits.
“I think it’s going to mean everything,” Heath said. “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 by-product of the new training facility goes beyond just recruiting top players from Europe, however. The bigger consequence could come on the youth academy side, where Orlando City’s teams will now have a home base.
Orlando City also has an option in Lake Nona to expand by another 20 acres, and Lions president Phil Rawlins told the Sentinel the club is considering the possibility of a residential academy in the not-so-distant future.
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.”
“The fact is at Lake Nona, there are schools going in, there’s university [right there,] it’s endless [the possibilities,]” Heath said. “And we can house everybody there. That’s something for me where I know that’s where the future of the club is. It’s a process, but we have to start producing our own players. … To do that, you need a facility capable of doing that and I think this will give us that opportunity.”