It's been nearly 15 years since professional soccer player Tosaint Ricketts moved from Edmonton to Chile to train year round. Now, he wants to help the next generation of Edmonton players.
On Tuesday, Ricketts was at the soccer dome south of Ellerslie road where the group behind the facility announced a sponsorship agreement, which led to the building being re-named Edmonton Soccer Dome by Brookfield Residential.
The facility has been operational since October.
Ricketts is impressed by the air-conditioned indoor dome, which has artificial turf and will allow players to train in the winter.
"It's amazing and facilities like this will be the main training grounds. The facilities we need to train for year round and Edmonton really needs it," said Ricketts. a former Toronto FC forward.
Ricketts remembers when he was playing on the under-15 provincial team and a handful of Alberta players were chosen to attend the national team camp. Ricketts wasn't one of them. He then moved to Chile to train to become a better player.
"Unfortunately a lot of us had to leave," Ricketts said. "Had to go to other countries, other places, other environments to get the proper training and reach that level that we all aspire to reach."
He's hoping the Edmonton Soccer Dome will allow younger players to develop close to home, while also bringing talented soccer players to Edmonton.
"Being a part of the national team, we would be happy to train here in the winter months," he said. "With the CPL [Canadian Premiership League] they'll get full advantage of this facility. This is what we need to grow soccer in Canada and the level of Canada Soccer in the future. More facilities like this across Canada will fuel the kids and give them better environments to train year round."
Praise of his friend Alphonso Davies
Ricketts pointed to the rising stardom of Edmonton product Alphonso Davies asa testament to the talent in the city and the work being done to develop young players. The two are friends who have played together on the Canadian Men's National Team, along with sharing the same hometown.
"He's a great kid. Very talented and he has that fearless passion that all the youth need to aspire to have," Ricketts said. "He's a great leader and a great example of what a Canadian soccer player should be growing up and reaching that level."
Ricketts isn't just in awe of the talent of Edmonton soccer players, he's also helping to aid in their development. The former MLS Cup champion started a soccer academy this summer.
"I started the academy to help young kids at the grassroots level and provide them with those options that I never had as a kid growing up," Ricketts said.
Toronto FC declined the option to re-sign Ricketts. He's weighing his options to either return to Europe where he played for nearly six years or to join another team in the MLS.
He's looking forward to the start of the Canadian Premiership League as a home for Canadian players and says he will look at the possibility of playing in the league in future.