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Everything you need to know about Sounders' new training facility

Longacres is as much a statement of purpose as it is a physical building.

Last Updated
5 min read
Raúl Ruidíaz enters through the “Hall of Champions.” | Jane Gershovich / Sounders FC

RENTON – Walking into the Seattle Sounders' new training facility, on the grounds of the former Longacres Racetrack and inside the refurbished Boeing Commercial Airplane headquarters, it's almost impossible not to be impressed.

It's new and state-of-the-art. The entire first floor was gutted and rebuilt to accommodate the team's needs and includes such niceties as a cryotherapy chamber and a sauna with a TV inside.

It's spacious and practical. The exercise room is big enough to accomodate the entire team working out at once, with roll-up doors that open to the actual training pitch.

There are little flourishes almost everywhere you look, and homages to the club's past that stretch back at least 50 years. The LED lighting in the team's new changing room can be altered to match the team's colors and fan-provided memorabilia fills the walls, carefully curated to span decades without feeling cluttered.

Jane Gershovich / Sounders FC

Stepping outside onto the massive balcony that overlooks the actual training pitch, you're struck by how it all gently fits into its natural surroundings. There are two full grass pitches stacked on top of one another, with another half field where goalkeepers can train separately.

Everyone who spoke about Sounders FC Center at Longacres was suitably impressed. It was clear that details were carefully considered, right down to forcing players to walk by a wall festooned with all 12 league, national and continental titles the Sounders have won over the years.

As glorious and even awe-inspiring as this all is, Longacres is still just a building. To a degree, the training center's opulence is simply a product of keeping up with the Joneses. There's a sort of facility arms-race being waged in MLS, and even if this pushes the Sounders into the upper echelon, that's likely only temporary. There was a time when Starfire seemed to be one of the best facilities in MLS, only to left well behind and for the club to outgrow it in the past decade.

Jane Gershovich / Sounder at Heart

For all of this to matter, Longacres has to be more than that. It has to be an idea, a statement of purpose, a standard that players, coaches and everyone else who works there must meet.

To their credit, that message already seems to be coming through loud and clear.

"This is a challenge for players now," Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei told the media on Tuesday. "This facility asks something of you now. To take it to next level.

"Whatever you need is at your fingertips. It’s just a question of how bad do you want it? Discipline is your unwavering commitment to your dreams and goals. It’s much easier now to be disciplined when you have all these toys and these things that are right here."

As their trophy case can attest, the Sounders have done just fine until now. During their first 50 years, they've trained everywhere from World War II-era stadiums to random parks throughout the region. There have been periods where they didn't even have a permanent training site, effectively competing for space alongside amateur clubs. This is obviously something very different, something likely far more permanent than even Starfire. The slogan around Longacres is that this will be their home for the next 50 years.

I have no doubt Longacres will be a wonderful recruiting tool. I'm sure players will enjoy spending time there, eating catered meals and getting pampered by the best technology available. I suppose it might even make it easier to get through those dog days of summer. But now the real work begins and the only way we know if it was worth all the hype is if results follow.

"We talk about the standards you set, and the ownership has created those standards with this facility," Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan said. "Now it’s our responsibility to continue with those standards and put in those extra inches, that extra sweat into our workouts and recovery. That’s going to pay off in the 89th minute. As beautiful as this place is, it’s a place where we’re going to get sweaty and grind out during the midweek games and where we’re going to put in the extra 5-10% to get the win on the weekends."

Here's everything else you need to know about the training center:

How much did this all cost?

The final price tag is going to end up being right around $68 million, but this isn't the end of investment. This is just the first stage of a larger development that will eventually completely transform the surrounding area into something that's being billed as a transit-oriented, live-work-play community.

Will that include more Sounders stuff?

My expectation is that it will. As things stand today, the atrium of Longacres is still very much under construction. That will eventually be the most visible part of the facility from the outside and will serve as the entry point for visitors. It's where most of the previous public-facing events have been held and where I suspect most will be held going forward. Beyond that, though, I'm expecting there to be both retail and commercial space in and around the training facility that will give it even more of a destination feel.

Can fans go there now?

Yes, but access is pretty limited at this point. As was the case at Starfire, fans are still allowed to watch training sessions. Unlike Starfire, however, direct contact with players will be far more limited. Players now have secured parking and exit directly from the facility onto the pitch, no longer needing to navigate through fans and/or youth players to get there. If fans want direct interactions, it will more likely need to be part of an organized group; I know there are plans for season-ticket holders to be invited to the space, for instance.

What are some of the other amenities?

Besides all the state-of-the-art training and recovery equipment, there are other flourishes designed to make Longacres feel more like a second home. Among those are a barber chair that Cristian Roldan is already giddy about using; a players' lounge that serves high-quality meals; and a bluetooth speaker system that will allow players to more easily customize their musical preferences. There is also apparently a ping-pong table on the way and Roldan was even pitching the idea of creating a space for pickleball.

How are Defiance and Academy players integrated?

The Defiance and Academy now each have their own dedicated locker rooms, and they'll share exercise and recovery spaces. These are significant upgrades over what they had access to previously, but lean more towards the practical than opulent in order to drive home the point that they have work to do to get to the first team. Similarly, they'll mostly train on the FieldTurf fields toward the back of the facility and work their way up the grass first-team space.