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Over the course of the next three years, a project with a rather straightforward title - ''BVB Training Centre Expansion'' - is set to send the club back to the very pinnacle of national sporting infrastructure. A close collaboration with DSW21 will see up to 20 million euros invested in construction work to be carried out in the Hohenbuschei area. The completed project should immediately make young players think: I WANT TO PLAY HERE - nowhere else!
During the summer of 2018, Borussia Dortmund was almost like a construction site. The foundations of the squad had shown signs of strain. The club took the decision to add new supports and arches to increase solidity - with great success it must be said. The BVB first team - players, coaching staff and management - is solid as a rock once again, to such an extent that competitors and commentators are left open-mouthed. It seems like those in charge of the club have developed something of a taste for construction, so much so that they're now eager to embark on the next project. And this time around, it's a building project in the literal sense, complete with diggers and cranes and builders toiling away and building up as much of a sweat as the professional footballers just next door on the training pitch.
The training complex and youth performance centre (abbr. NLZ), located in Hohenbuschei, will be expanded in stages from now until 2021. In addition, the ''Sports Business Office'' will be entirely rebuilt from scratch. The Brackel neighbourhood will then truly be at the heart of all things Black & Yellow. The planned construction, which will cost up to 20 million euros, will make BVB the best-equipped football club in the country with regards to infrastructure. The board of management, which includes Hans-Joachim Watzke (Chief Executive Officer), Michael Zorc (Sporting Director) and Lars Ricken (Academy Coordinator), all eagerly await the completion of the project. Over the course of the next three years, many foundation stones will be laid and many Black & Yellow inauguration ribbons will be cut.
Marcus Knipping is the numbers man at BVB. Not in the sense of possession and passing accuracy statistics, but rather for financial figures. He is currently not just occupied with the half-year accounts and the DFL licensing procedure for the 2019/2020 season, but also the new construction plans, which will be carried out in collaboration with the Dortmund-based architecture agency SHA Scheffler Helbich as well as DSW21, who are responsible for design, animations, visualisations and building applications. In his mind, he shifts desks from left to right and places sofas in rooms which have yet to be built. He gazes out of the windows of the future ''Sports Business Office'' and admires the view of the training pitches, the very view which Watzke, Zorc and Sebastian Kehl (Director of Professional Football) will soon have from their desks. You can detect the sense of joy which Marcus Knipping garners from simply talking about the various aspects of the project, which carries the rather straightforward title ''BVB training centre expansion.'' You can also tell how keen he is to swap his leather shoes for a pair of working boots and get out there to observe happenings on the construction site first-hand.
Ever since Borussia Dortmund managed to overcome the existential threat posed by the 2004/05 financial crisis by narrowly avoiding bankruptcy, the club has developed the area, piece by piece, by working in close cooperation with Hohenbuschei GmbH, a member of the Stadtwerke Group. ''Throughout this time period, DSW21 have always been a partner we can one hundred percent count on - with a high level of dependability regarding budgets and, more than anything else, a willingness to be swept along by our enthusiasm and continue to develop and grow together,'' says Hans-Joachim Watzke in praise of the partnership. Another successful chapter looks like it will soon be written when the most extensive project undertaken as part of the partnership is launched, a project which will put the club at the very pinnacle of footballing infrastructure in Europe and set a new benchmark within Germany.
The latest findings in sports science and medicine have played a fundamental role in the design considerations for the project. Because, to briefly detach oneself from the excitement surrounding the project, the club must admit one thing: while BVB has long been a benchmark setter in the domain of training and player development, other clubs have since managed to slightly surpass it. That's why the club's management took some time to scope out the competition before sitting down to formulate plans. One club that stands out in this regard is Manchester City: the current English champions are widely viewed as the example to follow when it comes to sports infrastructure. Those in charge at BVB heard ideas and suggestions, let themselves be inspired, and then arrived at their own conclusions. At the forefront of their thoughts was the desire that, in Hohenbuschei, the ideal conditions should be created so as to develop young talent as best as possible. This clear strategy, for which BVB has become famous the world over, is what drives all of the club's efforts. The new training centre should immediately make young players think: I WANT TO PLAY HERE - nowhere else!
Another key aspect of the plans is the expansion of the youth centre. Close discussions are currently taking place with the city of Dortmund as to how an extension of the existing building may be implemented. Until now, young talents have had to move elsewhere as soon as they leave the academy. In future, the club would like to offer young players the opportunity to continue to stay in the youth performance centre so as to make the transition to independent living more smooth and gradual. A canteen, which both the young players as well as club employees may use, is also planned for the facility.
Work on the ''Sports Business Office'', which will be located next to the youth centre, is set to begin within the next few weeks. The three-storey building will include a press conference room, complete with booths for simultaneous interpreters, as well as several smaller interview rooms, all of which will be located on the ground floor. One floor up is where the academy coaches, physiotherapists and general staff offices will be located. Board of management members Lars Ricken and Edwin Boekamp will both be based here too. The rooms will all be flexible and modular, with movable walls. For example, small rooms can be converted into larger rooms, with minimal effort, for the purpose of meetings or seminars. Above the academy, on level two, will be the scouting department, who, in the words of Kipping, are set to move into a: ''modern working world.'' Work spaces won't be fixed, but rather mobile and flexible. The club is planning on setting up peace and relaxation areas. Power-napping will be actively encouraged. Ambitious work in a feel-good atmosphere.
Way up, on a top floor with several roof terraces, is where the real decision-makers will have their offices. There will also be a large conference room, in which various committees, such as the supervisory and economic councils, will have their meetings. Let's not forget the room with a view of the training pitches. It's likely that Hans-Joachim Watzke will continue to commute between the club's headquarters at the Rheinlanddamm and Hohenbuschei. But as for Michael Zorc and Sebastian Kehl, they'll undoubtedly spend the bulk of their time in the new building in Brackel, where they'll be almost as close to coach Lucien Favre and his team as they are when watching from the sidelines in Signal Iduna Park. Sporting leadership which can be summoned up by a simple hand gesture, but only from the start of the 2020/21 season, as Marcus Knipping's enormous project won't be fully realised until March/April 2020.
But that's not everything: the so-called "gatehouse" - a 40 x 10m large timber-framed construction which forms the entrance to the first team training ground - is also being newly built. In future, the club's stars will drive through a barrier activated by number plate recognition. Post and parcels won't simply be delivered; they'll be checked first by the security team. Borussia Dortmund strives to protect its players as much as possible, but this doesn't mean shielding them from the public and the media. Quite the contrary: public training sessions will continue to be held after completion of the expansion work. In addition, the working conditions for media representatives are set to improve significantly. The gatehouse not only has a working space for journalists, but also a roof terrace with views of the training grounds. There, TV channels will be able to set up their cameras in order to follow Lucien Favre's training sessions. What is more, the club is setting up a full studio for its in-house TV channel, BVB TV. The opening date: January 2020.
There's one more thing to mention: the current U23 building is also being extended, with a new swimming pool being added. This will lead to considerable improvement in terms of rehabilitation activities available for players recovering from injury. Furthermore, the sports medicine and physiotherapy facilities will be upgraded. The first team, who are having a whole-body-cryotherapy chamber added to their own building, will also make use of the new facility in the U23 building. The same is true of the so-called "Tonnendachhalle" (arch-roofed hall) - a building with a domed, column-free ceiling under which lies an 45 X 64 metre artificial grass playing surface. The twelve-meter high roof will ensure that all the club's teams - from academy to the first team - are offered ideal training conditions, all year round and regardless of the weather. In addition, Andreas Beck and his athletic coaching team will be able to put the players through their paces with sprint and fitness tests while sheltered from the elements. The design concept for the building is topped off with dressing rooms for away teams and academy teams as well as physiotherapy and seminar rooms. Completion is set for some point in 2021.
Great challenges await Borussia Dortmund, and not just out on the pitch. There's no doubt that Marcus Knipping will have to make a few alterations to his project management plan. There's no doubt that the time scale for completion will be extended. That's the big difference compared to football: a football season ends at a fixed point in time with a result that no-one can plan for, while a construction project ends with a result which everyone has planned for, but at a point in time which is generally far from fixed. But let's be honest: in the grand scheme of 110 years of club history, a couple of months makes little difference. The only thing that matters is the result. And the result of the planned project will set Borussia Dortmund in perfect stead to achieve its ambitious goals for the future.
Words: Frank Fligge
Photos: Alexandre Simoes
Visualisations: SHA Scheffler Helbich Architects | V-CUBE