The entrance is mere feet from where the Kings practice, and for now it’s a nondescript door with no signage that indicates what’s behind it.
But when one walks into this part of the Kings’ facility in El Segundo, the sound of rubber pucks bouncing off the glass dissipates. The lobby area of what will be the USC Keck outpatient clinic greets visitors and leads into the soon-to-be Meyer Institute of Sport, both set to open this month for the Kings, Ontario Reign, Galaxy and the public.
Construction crews are completing the final stages of a three-year project that began when the Kings inherited a 50,000-square-foot basketball training facility vacated by the Lakers, who moved into their own training center in 2017. It is intended to be a one-stop facility for sports medicine and sports performance, available for everyone from Anze Kopitar to the weekend warrior.
Kelly Cheeseman, chief operating officer for the Kings, said the idea was to install a state-of-the-art center for their players, in addition to all types of athletes.
“They’re all a hot item,” Cheeseman said of the modern trend of sports performance-medicine centers. “Not too many of them are making them public. We looked at it and we said, ‘We can only be enhanced by making this a public facility, versus a lockdown private institution.’
“It’s a much different philosophy than, I think, most organizations have.”
Cheeseman said the easy option would have been to build another hockey rink at the newly named Toyota Sports Performance Center, which currently houses three rinks for hockey and figure skating. But there was not enough space for a sheet of ice, and “at that point, we looked at, medically, what we wanted to do was enhance the facility and the performance institute came up,” Cheeseman said.
Cheeseman and Kings president Luc Robitaille toured facilities in other cities, as well as in Europe, to get an idea of how to map out their space. The outpatient clinic is laid out with numerous exam rooms meant for sports medicine recovery. Everything but MRI exams and surgeries will be done there, Cheeseman said.
Beyond the clinic are open gym spaces dedicated to sports performance study, such as the biomechanics aspect to better understand athletes’ predispositions to injuries. Part of the Lakers’ former practice court was kept intact, and is among the training spaces. There are also lounge areas and upstairs conference rooms that overlook everything.
Meyer has been the Kings’ director of player health and performance for three years and worked with them for years prior to that. He also has a clientele of NBA players who will also use the center. The Kings recently named Frank Petrigliano as their team physician and chief of the center.
The complex is bent toward high-end athletes and their needs. In theory, it could impress potential free agents who tour the Kings’ facility and see the all-in-one medical-performance setup. But is it for everyone.
“[It’s] not like a gym, but the idea is that we’re looking to bring that level of care to the South Bay,” said Don Wolfe, chief operating officer of the Meyer Institute. “Whether you a $40-million athlete or a 50-year-old with a hip replacement … that’s the demographic.”