Real Salt Lake began a new chapter in its history on Thursday with the announcement that RSL founder Dave Checketts sold the remainder of his stake in the team to Dell Loy Hansen, making Hansen the sole owner of RSL, Rio Tinto Stadium, and ESPN 700 radio. As I listened to the press conference, I found myself getting a bit emotional, especially as Checketts ("Uncle Dave", as he is affectionately known to fans) was speaking. For him, RSL was a labor of love. I firmly believe that Dave Checketts is the reason RSL survived its infancy. Most businesses that fail do so in their first five years, and there were a couple of times that RSL could have and would have failed if it weren't for Checketts and his sports business acumen. He wasn't the flashiest or richest owner in MLS, but he was the most savvy. In short, Dave Checketts was the right man for the job at the time. Uncle Dave, thank you for believing in all of us.
Likewise, I believe Dell Loy Hansen is the right man for the job at this time. New ownership of a sports franchise is always met with some trepidation, so let me tell you a story about Mr. Hansen that may help put your mind at ease.
It probably won't surprise you to learn that my soccer journalism gig doesn't pay all my bills, and very few of us are fortunate enough to say otherwise. As such, I have a career unrelated to soccer that helps me make ends meet. Ironically, it was my other career that led to my first meaningful conversation with Dell Loy. It was 2010 and I was doing a lot of business with one of the other businesses Dell Loy owns. The CEO of Dell Loy's business invited me to sit with him and Hansen in Hansen's suite at the next RSL game. So I decided to enjoy two hours high on the hog - I called in "sick" to my editor for that game and headed to Hansen's suite.
I had met Dell Loy before but never beyond salutations in the hallways and back rooms of the stadium. This time, as I introduced myself formally, he said "you're the journalist, aren't you? I read your stuff! Grab a plate of food and sit down...I want to talk to you." I was flattered and surprised that I was being read by a team owner. For the next half hour he grilled me on everything RSL and soccer-related. What makes RSL so good? What's the diamond midfield? What makes Jason Kreis a good coach? What does this team need to be better? What did the ref call there? How do we get the fans more involved and engaged?
Since then I've had a couple more experiences like this with Hansen. From them, I feel confident stating a few things now that he is RSL's sole owner:
- He is a local who loves Utah and he wants to the team to succeed in Utah in spite of the challenges of being a small market.
- He is a visionary man who knows how to grow a business on multiple fronts.
- He knows who is customer is. The fans are what make this business tick and he knows that.
- He has the resources and is willing to invest them in the team to make sure the product RSL delivers is top-drawer.
- He believes in the team management and technical staff.
I'm very excited to see what unfolds in this next chapter of the Real Salt Lake story. The first eight years of RSL gave us many amazing moments, and I really believe there will be even more of them as we move into the future.
A former RSL beat reporter for multiple outlets, Jeremy Horton is a regular contributor to RealSaltLake.com and covers the team for ESPN 700 AM