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Heartland Soccer: Managing Growth and Tech Innovations

This week on the Facility Playbook Podcast, we talked to Shane Hackett, Executive Director of Heartland Soccer Association. They boast the title of largest soccer league and tournament host in the country, and they have the systems to back it. Heartland Soccer Association’s growth can be attributed to their commitment to investing in their community and continuing to stay up to date with the latest tech. In this blog, we break down some of their success stories of growth, how they handle training refs, tips for league management, and staying up to date on technological advancements in the industry. To hear insights from one of the top facilities Heartland built, check out our episode with Scheels Soccer Complex!

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Unprecedented Growth

Founded in 1977 by 4 separate leagues looking to maximize their resources, Heartland Soccer has grown beyond what its founders would have ever imagined, coordinating 1,500 soccer teams per season. With unprecedented growth comes unprecedented challenges, which they have overcome with grace. From dealing with the complexities of ref training, league organization, and growth challenges, Heartland Soccer Association sets a prime example in the sports facility landscape.

Covered in This Episode:

  • Referees: Training the Best in the Field
  • Sponsorships: Funding for Facilities
  • Multi-Sport Integration: Adapting to Varied Sporting Needs 
  • Future Prospects: Pioneering Technological Advancements

Highlights and Key Moments:

  • "Clubs compete against each other, but these clubs were smart enough to put this umbrella governing body in as Heartland."
  • "We're seeing growth in tournaments and league, but it's a couple of percentage points annually."
  • "The largest deployment of AI cameras in the world."


Ref Training: Training the Best in the Field

At Heartland, referee training is a comprehensive process designed to mold adept officials. The journey begins with mandatory certification ensuring a thorough grasp of the intricate rules of the game. New recruits often start as assistant referees, gradually transitioning to more complex tasks in games. It's a structured evolution that, for those inclined, offers a pathway towards professional leagues. The emphasis on gradual skill development aligns with a vision to produce not just capable referees but those equipped to manage games efficiently, fostering an environment where players and coaches can focus on their performance rather than contesting decisions.


Sponsorships: Funding for Facilities

Sponsorships play a pivotal role in sustaining and elevating the operations of sports clubs like Heartland. Through strategic alliances and partnerships with various businesses and entities, Heartland secures the financial backbone needed to manage and expand its multifaceted operations while keeping fees down. These alliances are not merely financial exchanges; they represent synergistic relationships that mutually benefit the club and its sponsors. Heartland offers exposure to brands that resonate with the sports community, allowing sponsors to tap into a dedicated audience of athletes, families, and sports enthusiasts. In return, these sponsorships bolster the club's ability to invest in infrastructure, facilities, and programs, furthering the vision of creating a premier sporting environment for the community. One of the proudest stances of Heartland is that player registration fees have not had to be raised, despite wild inflation because of these strategic partnerships. The club ensures that these collaborations go beyond mere monetary support, often fostering engagement with the sponsored brand, aligning shared values, and contributing to the overall sporting experience for everyone involved.


Multi-Sport Integration: Adapting to Varied Sporting Needs 

Heartland Soccer's ingenious field planning plans for the future with adaptability and versatility. Beyond just soccer, these meticulously designed fields accommodate a diverse range of sports, reflecting a forward-thinking approach that caters to the ever-evolving demands of the athletic community. With lines that aren't permanently sewn but rather power washed off and painted on, the fields are transformed swiftly and efficiently to suit different sizes or sports—be it soccer, field hockey, lacrosse, or football. The technology embedded within these fields allows for rapid conversion, ensuring that the facility serves various sporting needs throughout the seasons. The foresight behind these adaptable fields represents a commitment to embracing multi-sport experiences, delivering a space where athletes across disciplines can thrive, fostering a dynamic, inclusive environment that prioritizes accessibility and flexibility.


Future Prospects: Pioneering Technological Advancements

Heartland's forward-thinking approach extends to field engineering, utilizing innovative AI cameras that enable real-time field adjustments. These cameras also open the door for live streaming of games, creating an avenue for out-of-state fans supporting their players, as well as teams benefiting from the recording to analyze gameplay. This level of technological sophistication is poised to revolutionize the way teams train, prepare, and learn from game experiences and allow facilities an opportunity for additional income.

Subscribe to the Facility Playbook Podcast

Thank you for joining us on this episode of Facility Playbook! We hope the knowledge shared serves as a valuable resource for facility owners and managers seeking to thrive in the ever-evolving sports industry. Stay tuned for our next episode, where we will continue to bring you expert tips to help you navigate the dynamic world of facility management

This discussion offers an eye-opening view of the complexities and innovations within the world of sports facility management. From the challenges of growth and field adaptability to technological advancements, it sheds light on the spectrum of strategies and operational models in use at Heartland.

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