Back in November 2017, Dell Loy Hansen and the NWSL made the announcement that women’s professional soccer was coming to Utah. At that press conference, Hansen hyped this new team as it entered the league, officially replacing an FC Kansas City team that recently folded.
We listened as Hansen said the women’s team would receive equal treatment — better than the men’s team, in fact. Sure enough, Hansen delivered, unveiling a locker room that wowed many, including this writer who might have cried at her desk when she watched the stream of the event. Oh, and they also got apartments to live in and fancy Ford SUVs. And can’t forget about those epic robes.
Hansen also said that the they were going to fill every seat at Rio Tinto Stadium for the home opener.
And guess what? He meant it.
First, we heard 7,000 tickets sold. Then, 8,000. Then, 13,000. Then how that number was nearing 15,000. And yesterday, I had a chance to confirm with the club the official number and whether what I was hearing/reading about a sold out stadium was true.
Saturday’s home opener against the Chicago Red Stars at Rio Tinto Stadium has sold 18,000 tickets. Seats had to be made unavailable for the concert stage for the post-game Rachel Platten concert, but The RioT is officially sold out. Standing room tickets were then made available, but those, too, sold out on Thursday. If anyone wants to go to the game, the best available seats are in club seating or watching it on Lifetime.
There was some disappointment that Saturday’s home opener will not break the current NWSL record of 23,403 set by the Orlando Pride at their inaugural home opener on April 2016. That would have already been impossible due to Rio Tinto’s seating capacity of 20,213. Camping World Stadium, which the Pride used in 2016, has a 25,500 seating capacity.
While the Royals will not break that specific record, it will set an attendance record for the highest attendance for a women’s soccer game at Rio Tinto. The highest so far was an international friendly between the U.S. Women’s National Team and Canada on June 30, 2012. That game drew 16,805 fans to Rio Tinto.
Overall, here’s what we can conclude: The RioT is going to be wild for the home opener. Sure, some seats had to be made unavailable for a concert stage, but we can trust the marketing folks to know what they’re doing with this. 18,000-plus is an incredible number for a home opener, especially for a team that just came to the NWSL in November 2017.
Hopefully, this number extends beyond Saturday, and it continues all season. Because as exciting and monumental that number for the home opener is, there are 11 more home games for the Royals at Rio Tinto.
And here’s this:
The best attendance in the NWSL in 2017 was in Portland at Providence Park where 17,653 fans came for the Thorns on average. So, if we’re going to talk about setting records, it’s to reach an 18,000-plus attendance average for the entire season.
Saturday’s home opener is just the beginning.