What was once an idealistic vision is now a brilliant reality.
When Sporting Kansas City and Children’s Mercy forged their multifaceted partnership in 2015, a shared objective rose to the forefront. Essential to both organizations was providing significant benefits to children across the Kansas City community and throughout the region.
Less than three years later, this defining characteristic has helped pave the way for a new, world-class athletic facility in Kansas City, Kansas.
Feb. 6 marked the official opening of a state-of-the-art venue located a mile from Children’s Mercy Park and Wyandotte Sporting Fields. The $75-million facility, formerly the National Training and Coaching Development Center, is a first-of-its-kind collaboration between a professional sports team, a national sports federation and a sports medicine provider. In addition to being the training home of Sporting Kansas City and the site of U.S. Soccer’s National Development Center, it is also home to Children’s Mercy Sports Medicine Center at Village West.
It should come as no surprise, then, that Children’s Mercy casts such an excited and anticipatory eye into the future as a new era of sports medicine and rehabilitation begins in Kansas City. More than a quarter of the sprawling space — 27,000 out of 80,000 square feet, to be exact — makes up the Children’s Mercy Sports Medicine Center.
“This facility is designed to meet the needs of all student athletes who want to rehab in an environment specific to their sport. It also strengthens the great relationship we already have with Sporting KC,” said Kevin Latz, MD, Director, Sports Medicine Center at Children’s Mercy. “The opportunity to have our physicians, athletic trainers and physical therapists working alongside Sporting KC is new and unique. These are two very dynamic organizations who can improve the care and treatment of student athletes.”
The visionary concept of Sporting KC players training and rehabbing in the same venue as youth athletes was a chief driver behind the strategic layout of the facility. While Sporting KC and Children’s Mercy have their own exclusive spaces, some areas — such as the 13000-square-foot sports performance gymnasium — will overlap. The idea is that professional and youth athletes alike will provide each other inspiration, creating a special environment in a special building.
“The comprehensiveness of the new program will be monumental,” said Marshaun Butler, Vice President, Children’s Mercy Kansas City, Outreach & Regional Practices. “We no longer have just one location for injury prevention and another place for sports physical therapy. We’ll be able to offer all of our services — from injury prevention to physical therapy to specialized treatment — within this one location.”
Indeed, the sheer square footage of the Children’s Mercy space will allow doctors, physical therapists and athletic trainers to tailor specialized programs to individual student athletes as well as large groups. In the sports performance gymnasium alone, several amenities will cater to student athletes in all sports.
The open turf area is ideal for running and lateral movement exercises, while other features include a basketball hoop with an NCAA regulation half court and a professional-grade batting cage that can drop from the gym’s high ceiling, measuring 70 feet long to allow ample space to work on form, technique and throwing progression while rehabbing. The gym has a full range of cardio equipment, a weight lifting are and two therapy pools with underwater treadmills.
“The ability to offer programming in a more spacious area gives us a lot of flexibility with entire teams of athletes,” Dr. Latz said. “If a team wants to go through a four-week program of ACL injury prevention, they can come through and be trained as a group rather than divided into smaller groups.”
Children’s Mercy will also have eight clinical exam rooms plus three offices, a breakroom and a conference room. Another cutting-edge technology is the human performance lab, which Dr. Latz says “is one of a handful in the country which will allow us to study in a very scientific manner both the student athlete’s gait and movement patterns, as well as the patterns of children with traditional orthopedic problems like cerebral palsy and spina bifida.”
By studying student athletes’ movements in great detail, doctors can make safer surgical and return-to-play decisions. The lab is 2,000 square feet with 20 high definition, 3-D cameras and six embedded force plates.
“We will be able to accurately assess ground reaction forces and complex movements in a frame by frame manner, providing incredible insights into movements that we have not been able to do before,” Dr. Latz said.
Student athletes will also benefit from two state-of-the-art HydroWorx pools. The HydroWorx 2000 will enable athletes to perform multiple dynamic movements on a treadmill with an adjustable water height of zero to six feet. A larger pool called the HydroWorx 3500 has a fixed height and an additional treadmill ideal group therapy and rehabilitation sessions.
With an unparalleled pediatric sports medicine expertise, Children’s Mercy will be elevated to even greater heights with a stunning variety of equipment, technology, programming and space.
“The physical space is dramatically different than what we’ve ever had,” Dr. Latz said. “From the injury prevention and sports performance point of view, this will really be a game-changer for us. With everything available to us, we hope it will be athlete-changing. There is nothing else like this in the region, and we believe there is a large group of underserved athletes out there who will benefit from this.”
Dr. Latz’s sentiments parallel closely with those of Butler, who sees the new facility as a pivotal extension of Children’s Mercy to another part of the metropolitan area. The new site gives Children’s Mercy a flagship location for sports medicine across Kansas City, complementing the sports medicine gymnasium at Blue Valley — which opened in 2013 — as well as facilities at Children’s Mercy East, Children’s Mercy Northland, Children’s Mercy Hospital Kansas, and the Adele Hall campus near downtown.
“This is such an important addition because it allows us to extend our reach into the Wyandotte County community,” Butler said. “One of our major priorities is making sure our patients and families have adequate access to care, and this is just another way to extend our access into Kansas City, Kansas.”
In addition to treating hundreds of student athletes for sports rehabilitation and injury prevention, the Children’s Mercy Sports Medicine Center will serve as an integral site for family and coach education.
As Dr. Latz points out, the ability for Children’s Mercy to work with U.S. Soccer raises another set of unique opportunities. Both entities will learn from one another, optimizing education programs on topics ranging from nutrition to mental health to concussion management.
“This is a huge educational opportunity for Children’s Mercy and U.S. Soccer,” Dr. Latz said. “Both groups will have something to teach and share as coaches and referees visit the facility. What we can provide on various medical topics relating to sports medicine will be very helpful.”
The Children’s Mercy Sports Medicine Center will fully open in April, but student athletes have already begun visiting the facility for sports physical therapy treatments and other programming. A wide-ranging staff includes sports medicine physicians, sports physical therapists, surgeons, radiologists, athletic trainers, nurses and a clinic team all who are specifically trained in sports medicine and pediatrics.
“Our program was created to be the premier sports medicine center for student athletes,” Dr. Latz said. “That means we have athletic trainers in the field, medical and surgical sports medicine physicians, sports physical therapists, as well as nutritional and mental health support for our athletes. Having one place that can physically bring all of those people together is truly remarkable.”
Added Butler, “The fact that Children’s Mercy continues to utilize the pediatric expertise of our providers is so important when we’re talking about youth athletes in this region. We couldn’t be more excited about the comprehensive scope of what we will be able to do here.”
About Children’s Mercy Kansas City
Founded in 1897, Children’s Mercy is one of the nation’s top pediatric medical centers. With not-for-profit hospitals in Missouri and Kansas, and numerous specialty clinics in both states, Children’s Mercy provides the highest level of care for children from birth through the age of 21. U.S. News & World Report has repeatedly ranked Children’s Mercy as one of “America’s Best Children’s Hospitals.” For the fourth time in a row, Children’s Mercy has achieved Magnet nursing designation, awarded to fewer than seven percent of all hospitals nationally, for excellence in quality care. Its faculty of more than 700 pediatric subspecialists and researchers across more than 40 subspecialties are actively involved in clinical care, pediatric research, and educating the next generation of pediatric subspecialists. Thanks to generous philanthropic and volunteer support, Children’s Mercy provides medical care to every child who passes through its doors, regardless of a family’s ability to pay. For more information about Children’s Mercy and its research, visit childrensmercy.org. For breaking news and videos, follow us on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.
About Sporting Kansas City
Sporting Kansas City is owned by Sporting Club, an entity founded by a group of local business and community leaders comprised of the Patterson Family, Cliff Illig, Pat Curran, Greg Maday and Robb Heineman. Sporting KC prides itself on a commitment and vision to provide high-performance experiences. Sporting Club purchased the team from the Hunt Sports Group in 2006, and under its direction has opened Swope Soccer Village, Children’s Mercy Park, Wyandotte Sporting Fields and Pinnacle while investing in the Sporting KC Academy and Swope Park Rangers for developing local youth into homegrown talent. A charter member of Major League Soccer, Sporting KC are two-time MLS Cup champions (2000, 2013) and four-time winners of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup (2004, 2012, 2015, 2017).