Josh Williams couldn’t stop smiling as he walked from one room to the next.
He had heard how great the new OhioHealth Performance Center was, mostly because Dante Washington, the Club’s director of strategic partnership and business development, couldn’t stop messaging Williams about it. But the defender ultimately wanted to savor that coveted first impression.
“I wanted to hold off because I wanted the grand entrance to everything,” Williams said. “I didn’t want to see it in stages, I wanted to be blown away. That’s exactly what happened.”
PARTIAL PLANS AVAILABLE: Customize your plan for matches at New Crew Stadium today!
On Monday afternoon, Williams and his teammates visited the OhioHealth Performance Center for the first time and saw the new headquarters of the Columbus Crew.
Located just a few feet west of Historic Crew Stadium, the OHPC is a sprawling 42,300 square-foot facility that has four fields, eight locker rooms and will house all aspects of The Crew, from the First Team, to Crew 2 in the future and the Columbus Crew Academy.
Until now, the Club has trained at Obetz, which was one of the first MLS training facilities. While the facility offered enough to help the Crew win the 2020 MLS Cup, the new OhioHealth Performance Center is designed not as a luxury building, but as a facility that offers every resource that Crew players and the coaching staff could need to compete for national and continental trophies.
“I’m at a loss for words,” head coach Caleb Porter said of the OhioHealth Performance Center. “I’ve been following the process of this facility for over a year now and I’ve seen the pictures and have toured it from time to time. But to actually see it right now a finished product, it’s indescribable.
“It’s really humbling to know this is your workplace and where the players will be able to train. This is where I’m going to be able to have my office and work on a day-to-day basis. It’s just really humbling to know ownership stepped up and allowed our players and our coaching staff and our performance staff and our front office to have a facility like this. I’ve been around the world and I’ve seen some of the best facilities in the world. This is as good of a facility as I’ve ever seen. It’s going to be a gamechanger.”
WATCH | Players, coaches react to seeing the OhioHealth Performance Center for the first time
About the OHPC
Designed and constructed by Columbus-based firms – the Columbus Architectural Studio and Corna Kokosoing Construction – the OhioHealth Performance Center is a first-in-class facility and one of the largest training practice centers in MLS. Beginning Wednesday, the building will bring all Crew soccer operations under one roof.
Inside the building, the club has added any resource a player could possibly think of, from a stunning 34-player locker room, to ample training and recovery rooms, to a theatre, a sleep room, and even a barbershop chair.
A home away from home, the facility was designed as not only a place where Crew players would want to come to work, but where they’d stay long after they’ve had their daily training sessions or hit the weight room.
On any given day, a player can arrive in the facility, change into their practice apparel and can hang in the players’ lounge or eat in the dining area.
From there, they can prepare from training on one of the four practice fields or anywhere else inside the 7,000 square feet of high-performance areas, including the weight room, training room, and hydrotherapy area. The weight room features Rogue Fitness Equipment, whose headquarters are based in Columbus.
If Porter and the coaching staff want to dissect game film ahead of practice, then players can enter the 40-person theater and revisit previous matches or sequences from a training session.
Once it’s time for practice, The Crew has four practice fields in and around the OhioHealth Performance Center.
There are two First Team natural grass fields outside the building that are identical playing surfaces to what the Black & Gold will use at New Crew Stadium. The grounds crew has engineered the fields to be supported by hydronic heating and SubAir systems.
There’s also an additional grass field that will be used by the Academy, in addition to space that has been converted into a goalkeeper area.
The current field inside Historic Crew Stadium will also be used, on occasion, by the First Team.
That field will be transitioned from grass, to artificial turf and will accommodate Academy training sessions and games.
It will also be used in training sessions building up to the Black & Gold playing a road match against an opponent using a synthetic field, such as Atlanta United FC or the New England Revolution.
Any Crew team that uses Historic Crew Stadium will leave the OhioHealth Performance doors and walk directly toward midfield of the club’s first soccer-specific stadium – a minor fact, but an impactful detail for any player dreaming of one day walking onto the pitch at New Crew Stadium.
WATCH | Take a tour through the OhioHealth Performance Center
“We’re vertically integrated”
The OhioHealth Performance Center wasn’t designed solely to help the First Team find success.
While the facility will certainly cater to the Black & Gold senior team, there are multiple locker rooms in the facility that can house all of the Club's current and future teams. There’s also a dedicated academy lounge and training room.
“It’s really important that we’re vertically integrated,” Porter said. “We want players to be able to come through the Academy into the First Team. In order to do that, you need to all be under one roof so that everybody’s close, there’s an understanding and a collaboration from the First Team staff on down.
“We’re all together and it’s easy to share ideas. It’s important for Academy players and the Crew 2 players to know that down the hall is where they want to be.”
As Porter mentioned, by keeping all Crew sides in one building, all aspects of the Club’s soccer operations will report to OHPC.
Porter and each member of the First Team coaching staff have their own office, in addition to dedicated offices for Crew 2, as well as for the Academy staff.
Additionally, general manager Tim Bezbatchenko and Pat Onstad, the technical director and VP of soccer operations, will have offices down the hall from Porter. Scouting will also have designated space, and there’s a war room for personnel to discuss roster decisions.
It’s worth remembering that the OhioHealth Performance Center can help current players, but it’s also a massive selling point for any outside player interested in joining the club. Overnight, the Crew have gone from having the first training facility at Obetz, to housing one of the best facility in MLS.
“This will be a really easy sell,” Porter said. “It’s a world-class facility, it’s state-of-the-art and there’s all the bells and whistles. The players want resources. They want a gym, a great training room, a theatre. They want all the things we have now.”
What this means for players
Club captain Jonathan Mensah said he was humbled by the team’s new training facility and said it’s one of the best he’s ever seen after playing international soccer for more than a decade.
“We’ve got everything we need to perform on the field,” Mensah said. “I’m thankful for ownership and the sacrifices they’ve put in for us to have this. We’ll come in here and enjoy and make the best out of it.
“We’ve proven it time and time again on the field (that we’re a top MLS team). We’ve seen the product off the field, also. We’re grateful to be opening the new facility and proving to the rest of the league that we want to be the best, not just on the field, but off the field as well.”
As for Williams, the 33-year-old defender has consistently mentioned his pride in being able to represent his childhood club. But the opening of a truly world-class facility in Columbus can’t be understated, he said.
“To have a new facility like this, world-class, it just makes you want to be here and spend time here,” Williams said. “It makes work a lot more fun and enjoyable. I can already tell the guys are in a better mood.
“Obetz was nice and it was one of the first facilities in MLS, but to have something like this, I just have immense pride. It’s just beaming off me. I feel like a kid.”