Real Salt Lake is currently offering “hard hat tours” to the public for the new Zions Bank Stadium & Training Center, so we thought, why not check it out? Lucas Muller and Megan Webb were able to both take tours on Monday. This is their reaction.
The tour was given by Ryan Creager, Program Manager, and Jorge Perea, Marketing & Ticketing Director - ZBRA. It begins on the player’s corridor. This corridor starts with the academy locker rooms. There are lockers, showers, a small lounge, etc. These are nice facilities, especially for youth, but then you go to the Monarch’s locker room, there’s a big jump up in the space and quality of facilities. After this comes the first team locker room for Real Salt Lake. There’s another big jump here as well. This space was far from finished, but you can tell it’s going to be incredible. There are high ceilings, lots of space, and natural light. There’s an obvious sense of moving up from the academy, to the Monarchs, then to RSL. If you are a youngster playing in the academy, there’s a clear path with clear rewards.
Next we looked at the indoor fields. This area is massive and is the largest pre-engineered freespan building in North America. It’s large enough for two full sized fields for 11v11 practice, or can be split up into smaller fields for training or rec league use. There are bleachers on one side and a massive screen. There will be concessions available as well. The artificial turf is imported from Europe and is supposed to be some of the best for soccer. Just outside the indoor fields are several sets of stairs down to the grass fields for practice. The academy, Monarchs, Royals, RSL, and the city of Herriman will each of their own grass field.
We moved on to the Zions Bank Stadium. This 5,000 seater stadium will be home to the Monarchs. Underneath the main stands there are restrooms, locker rooms for home and away teams, and locker rooms for both male and female referees. The seating in the stadium will be chairs (similar to Rio Tinto Stadium) and bleacher seating. The field is the same artificial turf as the indoor facility. RSL owner Dell Loy Hansen has put a strong emphasis on making this stadium environmentally friendly, so reusable cups will be available for purchase so the buyer only has to pay for a refill rather than a new beverage. All other cups will be recyclable/compostable. There are solar panels on top of the stands to offset energy usage.
The last thing we saw was the school itself. Real Salt Lake Academy is a STEM (an emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and math) school for grades 9-12. This is a charter school, so students in the area are eligible to attend, even if they are not a part of the academy soccer team. The school currently has an enrollment of around 160 students, but can house up to 300. It’s a very modern school and feels more like a college then a high school. The branding is all RSL branding and it feels beautifully integrated into the RSL vision.
This tour was one of those things that as an RSL nerd when I heard they were doing these tours I instantly signed up and freaked out about. I’ve watched this facility be built from the beginning, and now finally getting to go inside, it was nothing short of epic. Everything on the inside is state of the art, none of it looks cheap, everything is going to be integrated with the newest technology. The indoor turf fields are incredible. They allowed the tour participants to kick a ball around for a little while, and they play as close to grass as you can ask for. The only real reason you’d be able to tell it wasn’t, is because of the turf beads.
Then for the outdoor, 5,000 seat Monarchs stadium, it’s better than anything in the USL. It’s gorgeous, and has one of the best views you can ask for, you can see all of the Wasatch Front out the east side. The tickets are inexpensive for being in such a state of the art and magnificently built facility.
This is something to be excited about as a soccer fan in Utah. You get to watch the future of not just Real Salt Lake and Royals soccer here, but the future of American and potentially worldwide soccer. These facilities are world class. If you get a chance to go down and even just drive by the facility up close, do it. There’s something you just can’t put into words about this cathedral of soccer we have built for us in Herriman.
Coming out of the tour, I just feel excited. I’m blown away at how great these facilities are. If you’re a kid who wants to play soccer, I don’t think there is a better place to be in the US than at the academy. Everything feels intentional and integrated. The move up in locker rooms is simple but packs a powerful message. The indoor field is unreal. I felt like I was in an airplane hanger it’s so massive. The tuff is nicer than any tuff I’ve seen before. I spoke to Dan Farnes, Director of Fields and Grounds, a few months back and he said this is some of the best turf that’s out there. Ryan Creager explained that the indoor field would be available for rental and adult rec league and I can’t help but think how fun it would be to play there.
The stadium seems perfect for the Monarchs. I love that it’s a 5,000 seater, so packing it out is a real possibility. It was always strange to be in a mostly empty Rio Tinto for Monarchs games, and this will be much more conducive to a good atmosphere.
I’m a bit sad that the Royals won’t be housed here. Their lockers will be at Rio Tinto stadium and they’ll do a yet-to-be-defined mix of practicing at the academy and America First field. The opportunity to start a NWSL team in Salt Lake happened so fast it makes sense this was not in the plans, but I’m still slightly bummed about it.
Overall, I am once again impressed with the vision for soccer in Utah that Dell Loy has implemented. If a player has multiple offers on the table, it seems like facilities of this quality will have a big influence on those decisions. It makes me excited what the future holds for both new signings the player pipeline.
Interested in taking the tour yourself? Assuming registration is still open, you can sign up here: https://www.rsl.com/content/zions-bank-real-academy-hard-hat-tours