EL CAJON, Calif. (AP) — With his mustard-yellow suit practically matching the color of a bulldozer right behind him, Padres slugger Manny Machado put on a hard hat, grabbed a shovel and joined in the ceremonial groundbreaking Thursday for the MLS expansion San Diego FC's $150 million training complex and youth academy.
Machado is a founding partner of San Diego FC, which is building its training complex and Right to Dream Youth Development Academy on the Sycuan Reservation in eastern San Diego County ahead of its MLS debut in 2025. San Diego FC is a joint venture between Egyptian billionaire Mohamed Mansour and the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation.
“We said we were planting roots in San Diego, and what better way to see this project come to life than have our facility and youth development academy on the grounds of Sycuan Reservation," Machado said. “It's an absolute perfect location in beautiful San Diego.”
“I've said from the beginning that this opportunity is important for me to leave a long-lasting legacy in San Diego, a community which has been so supportive," the third baseman added. "Our San Diego Football Club vision for the youth development academy means there will be more opportunities for San Diego athletes, boys and girls. I'm looking forward to seeing the next generation of athletes and future leaders come out of this program.”
The Right to Dream Academy San Diego will be a key part of the 125,000-square-foot campus that will be built on 28 acres adjacent to Singing Hills Golf Resort. It will feature a 50,000-square-foot sports performance complex shared by the first team and academy teams, and five full-sized soccer fields, three with natural turf and two with synthetic turf. San Diego FC will remodel 10 existing buildings at Singing Hills Hotel for dorms and a school.
The residential academy will accommodate male students between the ages of 12 to 18, spanning grades six through 12, beginning in the fall of 2025. San Diego FC will also create a non-residential girls pathway at the academy in 2026, making it the first MLS club to develop emerging female talent.
“It is such an honor, and I think it really is a statement about what Major League Soccer is, that we're partnering with a Native American tribe and will have this facility on their land,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said.
The project will be “huge,” said Tom Penn, CEO of San Diego FC. “It's incredibly challenging from an infrastructure standpoint to find this kind of land, No. 1, purposefully built, with all this existing infrastructure that we get to remodel, and then fields of green that we get to develop. You just can't find 28 acres. So to have it be on tribal land makes it even more glorious. But this will be the epicenter of football excellence and innovation in North America. I mean that, because of the specialness of the land, the place, and the programming" at the youth academy.
The first training camp will be held in January 2025. San Diego FC will play at San Diego State's Snapdragon Stadium, which is about 16 miles west of Singing Hills.
Machado had right elbow surgery on Oct. 3 following a disappointing year by the big-spending Padres. His ownership stake was revealed when MLS announced San Diego as its 30th franchise on May 18. He attended the public unveiling of San Diego FC's name and crest on Oct. 20.
“During the baseball season, I would regularly receive updates. And once the season ended, I was able to turn my attention to off-the-field endeavors,” Machado said. “The San Diego FC development academy is a project that is unlike anything I’ve been a part of previously and will create lasting change and opportunities for young athletes.”
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Bernie Wilson, The Associated Press