A new port to set sail from: Inside the $10m facility Lion City Sailors are hoping will elevate them to Asia's elite

Lion City Sailors Lion City Sailors FC

In just over two years since they were formed, Lion City Sailors have not shied away from setting lofty targets -- and going ahead and delivering on them.

In 2021, only their second year of existence, the Sailors were crowned champions of the Singapore Premier League. Earlier this year, they became only the second Singaporean team to record a win in the AFC Champions League -- Asia's premier club competition.

The ultimate goal is to establish themselves as powerhouses not just domestically but throughout the whole continent.

And on Thursday evening, LCS unveiled the stunning new headquarters that will be the base from where they will be looking to reach unchartered waters in the future.

While an official figure was not disclosed, ESPN believes the total cost of the Lion City Sailors Training Centre is in excess of S$10 million (approximately US$7.2m)

The 28,000-sqm facility will house two 11-a-side pitches and three seven-a-side fields -- all FIFA-certified -- along with gym and physiotherapy facilities, video analysis rooms and even study areas for the club's academy players.

Described by the Sailors as a "first-of-its-kind integrated football training facility", the centre -- located in Singapore's central MacPherson region -- will also accommodate for players' meals with one eye on dietary and nutritional requirements, via a catering partner that will also operate a café open to the public -- which the club hopes will help bring them closer to the local community.

"It was clear that, for us to reach our target of being a top club in the region, we have to look at best practices from Europe and all around the world," LCS chief executive Chew Chun-Liang told ESPN.

"Such a facility is the platform on which we will be able to develop players, build a pipeline of talent, and spark growth of an ecosystem that will help sustain the pipeline and the talent that come through it.

For our long-term goal of driving the club to be one of the best in the region, we knew we needed a training centre like this to be able to sustain growth and improvement that we need on that journey."

While plenty of attention will centre around how such a facility will provide an immediate boost to the Sailors' first team, who are currently on course to win a second consecutive SPL title, the club's women's and academy teams will also benefit full-time from the facilities, with separate locker rooms catered for females.

One Sailor who cannot wait to get comfortable in the club's new home is captain Hariss Harun, who believes such infrastructure is also crucial for the long-term development of not just the club but Singapore football as a whole.

Hariss is no stranger to such handsome surrounding having previously been on the books of the Malaysia Super League's equally-ambitious Johor Darul Ta'zim -- who arguably set the example for other clubs in the Southeast Asia region to follow back in 2016 with an impressive indoor facility that then cost RM15 million (approximately US$3.4m), but who are currently in the midst of building a brand-new headquarters opposite their 40,000-capacity Sultan Ibrahim Stadium.

"It's definitely very exciting -- the first-team players are really looking forward to calling this facility our home," Hariss told ESPN.

"To set things in motion and take it to the next level, with the longer-term picture in mind as well, you need to have structures in place. We're definitely in the right direction and, with everything in place, the onus on delivering on the pitch is now all up to us players.

"In modern football, you see many clubs all over the world have this kind of facilities -- it's quite the norm where the setup is really football-centric. It's very important because you want to give attention to detail in every aspect, and you don't want to miss out on things that -- when you look back -- you realise were crucial in the development of a player or a team.

"That's where this facility comes in, provided there is the consistency -- in our performance and whatever is being done with the academy. And hopefully the fruits of this labour will be seen in years to come."

In a rare sight at such occasions but in line with the club's 'Sailors' moniker, a bottle of champagne was also smashed against one of the walls at the facility's entrance -- as is traditionally done at the christening of new ships.

While the Lion City Sailors Training Centre is now officially open and already in operation, the main pitch is still being completed with the first team expected to only permanently operate from the new base when it is ready at the start of 2023, although they have started to use its other facilities.