October 8, 2013

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Bringing a second major league sports team into Utah always seemed like an...Read More

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Around Utah
Around Utah



Real Salt Lake Scores Big for Utah

By John Coon | Photography by Eric Delphenich

October 8, 2013

Sales of RSL jerseys and other merchandise have also risen sharply. Even though Real is located in the league’s smallest market out of 19 teams, it ranks in the top one-third in merchandise sales.

“Rio Tinto Stadium is now a very vibrant part of the fabric of Utah and the extended Salt Lake City market,” Manning says. “I would argue that probably most of the residents have been there at some point for something—whether it was a high school soccer game or a Real Salt Lake game or the Paul McCartney concert. Every year we host between 300,000 and 400,000 people in the stadium. Now you’re looking five years in and you’re talking millions of people have been to that stadium.”

On an economic scale, these events are bringing in tons of new visitors who spend their money at restaurants, hotels, stores and other places in Salt Lake County. Manning notes that 6,000 tickets for the 2014 World Cup qualifier played in June were bought by people who lived outside of Utah. They have also seen large contingents of fans come into Utah for other similar events.

The economic impact is not limited to tourism. RSL also has 72 full-time employees with an average salary of $70,000 per employee. The team also employs part-time staff members who assist in game-day operations. As many as 300 people work for RSL on game days.

Dolan and other Sandy leaders have taken note of how much the team has fueled economic growth within the city.

“On a regular game night, our restaurants are packed. They’re loving it,” says Dolan. “On those special events—like this year when we had the USA soccer team here—hotels fill up. People come from all over the country. They had 48 states represented at that game. Lots of people from out of the country come when Costa Rica or Mexico or some team like that is playing. The all-star game was here and filled up all the hotel rooms. People went out shopping and having dinner and things like that.”

The team’s impact extends beyond the stadium’s immediate surroundings.

Team owner Dell Loy Hansen recently reaffirmed Real’s commitment to provide financial backing for a soccer complex on the northern end of Salt Lake City, presenting the city with a check for $7.5 million in August.

The 142-acre complex will contain 15 fields and a 2,000-seat stadium. This complex will become the home of new youth academy teams that Real plans to develop in Utah to pair with its youth teams based out of Arizona. It will also allow Utah to host youth soccer tournaments and invite teams from California, Arizona, Colorado and other states in the region.

RSL also partnered with Salt Lake United Soccer Club in April 2013, changing the team name to Real Salt Lake Women SC. Real gave the team a $100,000 travel budget, enabling them to fly out to various tournaments.

None of this would be possible without the success of Rio Tinto Stadium’s anchor team. Putting out a winning product season after season drives fan support and opens the door for Rio Tinto Stadium to draw in other high-profile events.

It is the same principle that holds true in all parts of the business community, not just sports.

“If you’re selling pizza, the pizza has got to have good ingredients or nobody is going to buy it. It doesn’t matter how well marketed it is,” Lagerway says. “The ingredients in the pizza have been pretty good as of late.” 

Eye on the Ball

RSL Flourishing Under New Ownership

Dell Loy Hansen was no stranger to soccer before he purchased a 49 percent share of RSL ownership from team founder Dave Checketts. Hansen’s daughter Robin played college soccer in Iowa, and Hansen started the Soccer Academy in Logan more than a decade ago as a means to help younger players in Cache Valley learn fundamental soccer skills.

While attending a soccer match between the United States and El Salvador in September 2009, Hansen got word that Checketts was looking for a minority partner to invest in the team. He approached Checketts and convinced him he was the investor he needed.

Hansen came aboard as minority owner a month later and was immediately impressed by the level of dedication he saw on the field and behind the scenes.

“What I did see was a group of people who were really passionate about what they did and were really committed to the vision of RSL as a shining light in MLS,” Hansen says. “From our training, our coaching, our player acquisitions, our staff, our sponsorships, our ticket sales, I found a group that was committed to an above-average level of participating.”

Hansen put his financial resources gained as president of Wasatch Property Management into helping the team find more stable financial ground. He helped boost ticket sales and corporate sponsorships significantly during his time as minority owner.

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