FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – New England Revolution executives believe the team’s newly-constructed training center in the wetlands behind Gillette Stadium is a game-changer, but also say the club remains committed to building a soccer-specific stadium in the Boston area.
Club owner Robert Kraft and his son, co-owner Jonathan Kraft, cut the ribbon on the training center Monday with club president Brian Bilello and head coach and sporting director Bruce Arena. All four men said while the endgame continues to be a stadium, investment in a new training facility was long overdue.
“Three years ago, we said, ‘You know, the stadium is going to be a longer plan. We can’t wait,’” Jonathan Kraft said from a podium set up in the glitzy Major League Soccer locker room of the new, $35 million training center. “We really want to compete. A big part now across the league is world-class training facilities.”
Robert Kraft said the training center will allow the Revolution, who made their first playoff appearance in three years last season, to compete at a higher level.
“We now have a facility that’s worthy of the coach we have and our desire to win a championship,” Robert Kraft said. “We can compete with anyone.”
The training center houses all New England Revolution activity, from the club’s first team and front office staff to its academy and USL Championship programs.
It includes three natural grass fields, one of which is heated for use year-round.
The building also has a gym; a recreational center and kitchen; medical and training rooms; three hydrotherapy pools; a boot room; locker rooms for both men’s and women’s developmental programs; and offices for the coaching staff.
Prior to building this training center, the Revolution had to travel by golf cart from the team’s locker rooms inside Gillette Stadium to a practice field roughly 1,500 feet away. The new center also significantly upgrades the club’s training equipment and offers more communal spaces for players to train, relax and share meals.
“Your every-day environment is critical to your success,” Arena said. “Not to be critical of where we’ve been previously, but we needed to be in an environment where players had everything available to make them successful, so there are no excuses on that end. We want to maximize the potential of our players, and this facility allows us to do that.
“This is the best training facility I’ve been in my career. Things weren’t great at the LA Galaxy like you’d like to believe — we didn’t have a great training facility like this. And when I was at New York Red Bulls, we used to drive in our cars looking for practice fields. This is as good as it gets.”
Bilello said some Revolution players have already begun training in new facility, though their presence in Foxborough during the offseason is not mandatory.
Arena, who joined the Revolution in May after the club fired former head coach Brad Friedel, said he is happy to have the players from the very start of the 2020 campaign.
“We’re eager to get involved with this team every day from the start,” said Arena, who led D.C. United to titles in 1996 and 1997 and the LA Galaxy to the same feat in 2011, 2012 and 2014.“Hopefully, when January 18 rolls around we’ll have close to a full roster and we can start working.
“We want to be better. Championships don’t happen overnight, but we think we can be better. That’ll be my challenge to the team. All the teams I’ve been with in this league that won championships, my theme from Day 1 wasn’t that we’d go win championships, it was that we’d be a good team.”
New England, which enters its 25th MLS season in 2020, has yet to win MLS Cup, though its trophy case – located in the training center’s atrium – is not empty.
The team’s 2007 U.S. Open Cup is in there, along with the 2008 Superliga trophy and the club’s hardware from winning five Eastern Conference titles.
Up the stairs and outside the team’s locker rooms, which are accessible via bio-metric fingerprint scanners, stands a mural that spans three walls and contains images of club legends Taylor Twellman, Clint Dempsey, Steve Ralston, Shalrie Joseph, Lee Nguyen and Matt Reis.
Beneath the mural sit a trio of placards containing team statistical leaders and other accolades, such as MLS Best XI selections and club humanitarian of the year awards.
The building is located at 1776 Revolution Way — a nod to the year the Revolutionary War started — and has two conference rooms named after the battles of Lexington and Concord.
Aesthetically, the building is meant to have a New England feel as well. All the wood inside the building is reclaimed New England lumber. Tall windows span the training center’s two floors and provide visitors with views of the practice fields and the surrounding woods.
The landscape gives the training center a secluded feel. It seems easy to forget Gillette Stadium and the businesses at Patriot Place are a short walk away. That also gives the Revolution more autonomy in an environment where they’ve often been viewed as secondary to the NFL’s New England Patriots.
As to the objective of building a stadium for the Revolution, both Krafts remain hopeful and committed.
“To be very frank, we were working on getting a stadium in the city. That was our priority, but it’s taking us a little while, as you know,” Robert Kraft said. “This is New England. Things take a little longer to happen here.”
Jonathan Kraft later chimed in: “Hopefully, sometime while we’re all still walking this earth, we’ll be at a similar event announcing a stadium, too.”