The following article is in the most recent edition of The Sovereign, Real Salt Lake's matchday program.
It is one thing to invest money in a professional sports team. It is quite another to extend that financial venture into the community so deeply that it will have a long-term effect on the surrounding region for years to come.
While there is much to be gained from owning Real Salt Lake, Dell Loy Hansen has sought to make an impact on soccer at all levels throughout the state of Utah and his investment in the club’s Herriman training center and the regional training centers throughout the Wasatch Front will not only provide unique training opportunities for young players throughout the area but could also become pivotal in producing top class players for Real Salt Lake down the road.
Hansen and Real Salt Lake announced in April plans to build a $50-million training facility in Herriman, Utah, that will house not only RSL, but also Real Monarchs and the club’s Academy teams. But his investment didn’t stop there, extending into youth training facilities up and down the I-15, where players will develop a foundation at a young age to better prepare them for the elite-level academy system that will carry players through to the first team.
“Through my whole life I have been a huge proponent of giving elite training to kids, to give them real skill sets,” Hansen said. “My life has had a history of looking at elite ways to train the youth. Not everyone will become a pro athlete, but everyone can have the belief in becoming elite and having the self-esteem that comes with it.”
Already touting the likes of Jordan Allen and Justen Glad or Real Salt Lake’s first team, the RSL-Arizona Academy in Casa Grande, Arizona, has long been a launching point for young careers. In bringing those same principals to Herriman, it not only centralizes the entire structural pyramid, but also provides players from 14-year-old aspiring pros all the way up to world class professionals with an elite facility to ply their trade.
It won’t just be centrally located though, it will also be among the best facilities of its kind worldwide. Throughout the process of designing the facility, Hansen sought not just to construct something unrivaled in Major League Soccer, but something that could put Real Salt Lake into the same echelon of development of clubs like FC Barcelona and Ajax on the global scale.
“The term ‘world-class’ is what defines this. We are committed to building a facility and develop a curriculum and everything that surrounds the Herriman complex to become world-class. This is a facility of the highest quality,” RSL General Manager Craig Waibel said. “The quality we stand on as a club, the reputation we’ve built internationally, we are now in position to take advantage of that reputation.”
That vision sets up to provide high quality players to Real Salt Lake, but it also is a boon for Herriman City. While not only providing jobs and a local landmark for the city, it also sets the groundwork for young, aspiring soccer players to get close to the game they love on a daily basis.
That symbiotic relationship was key for players on both sides as Hansen and RSL sought a community that would embrace the club with open arms while Herriman wanted the club to be an active participant in the community.
“This facility will give a basis for dreams. What stirs in the hearts of young people when they walk on these fields, to provide that aspiration to stimulate the desire to pursue excellence in all walks of life, to become team players, to work on self-worth and self-esteem,” said Herriman City Mayor Carmen Freeman. “We are excited that Dell Loy Hansen is excited. His vision has provided an educational, cooperative process, this is a joint effort that has come together in the spirit of partnership with mutual respect, excitement and love.”
The Herriman facility is expected to break ground this summer and will open for the 2018 MLS season while the club’s regional training centers are already sprouting up throughout the region.