Even when casual fans of architecture hear the name Rafael Viñoly, they think of massive skyscrapers such as 432 Park Avenue – structures that hundreds of millions of people will see in their lifetime. Yet that will not be the case with one of the Uruguayan-born architect’s more recent designs: the Etihad City Football Academy in New York.
One of several conference rooms in the space that looks out onto the training fields.
Located some 30 minutes north of Manhattan, in the charming town of Orangetown, New York, Etihad City Football Academy is the home training grounds of the Major League Soccer (MLS) team, New York City FC (NYCFC). Located on a 17-acre plot of land, the 24,000-square-foot building houses every technical element of training for the ultimate goal of bringing New York City their first-ever MLS championship. And while the growth of soccer in the U.S. has been significant over the past few decades, it’s still a relatively young sport in the country. But with the MLS in its twenty-second season and with crowds growing each year, facilities like the one Viñoly designed for NYCFC is yet more proof that the sport is not just here to stay, but has some real power behind it too. “Designing and building a new world-class facility in New York City will serve as a milestone in the development and growth of the sport here in the U.S.,” says Viñoly.
An inside look of the Rafael Viñoly–designed soccer training facility for New York City FC.
Upon entering the facility, it looks as one might expect: a welcome reception area with a few leather seats and a desk with staff behind it. But once you pass through reception, it becomes apparent that this was a space designed with players and staff in mind. One side of the building houses offices for the coaching staff, communications team, and other members of the team who work behind the scenes to make NYCFC one of the most exciting teams in the league. A white wall divides the computers and conference rooms and offices from the cafeteria. This indoor/outdoor space is where players and coaches come to eat food prepared by personal chefs with nutrition in mind. From there, doors open to the weight lifting space, along with an area for players to seek medical treatment. All of the windows on this side of the building open to the training fields. Which means that all of the energy and focus is centered on where the action takes place, and why everyone comes to work each day. It surely inspired Viñoly: “Seeing them play reminded me of how important beauty is.”
NYCFC’s circular locker room, which the architect wanted to make sure was an open space.
Leave the cafeteria and go through a few doors, and you arrive at the circular locker room. This space was very important to Viñoly, as he wanted a sense of unity and functionality. The open space compels players to interact, even while they are seated and looking out from their lockers. From the lockers, a tunnel filled with the players’ cleats leads out onto the training fields.
The facilities are so top-notch, in fact, that MLS superstar and former World Cup champion David Villa said of his team’s new facilities, “For me, they are second only to the ones I used in Barcelona.” That’s real praise, considering the fact that, according to Forbes, Barcelona as a team had a net worth of $3.64 billion, and boasted one of the finest facilities in the world. As to whether the new, Viñoly-designed training facilities have helped NYCFC’s performance in matches? You can be the judge, at any of their remaining games this year.