Sovereign: Zions Bank Real Academy Vision Becoming Reality

NOTE: The following appeared in the latest edition of Sovereign, RSL's quarterly program.

In a few short months, the world of soccer in Utah is going to take a dramatic shift.  The Zion’s Bank Real Academy is nearing completion in Herriman, providing a world class training facility for Real Salt Lake and all of its affiliates all the way down to the U-14 level.  With that seismic shift remaking the landscape of soccer in Salt Lake City, it sets the stage for monumental developments for the sport both locally and nationally.

The vision of Dell Loy Hansen to create the facility - which will serve as home to RSL, the Real Monarchs in the USL and the club’s academy teams as well as Salt Lake Community College and local rec leagues – is one that will provide the club with an extraordinary training complex, but also will be an asset to the community.

“If you want to be a great soccer player, Utah is going to be the place to grow up,” Hansen said.

Already blessed with one of the best development academy teams in the country, RSL will now have all of its teams centrally located, which will prove beneficial at all levels of development as players have opportunities to progress through the system in real time.  The chance to train each day in the shadows of Real Salt Lake will provide an even greater proving ground for the young academy players.

Previously, Real Salt Lake’s academy had been stationed in Casa Grande, Arizona.  There, under the watchful eyes of Martin Vasquez, Freddy Juarez (who is now an RSL assistant coach) and Mike Kraus, RSL has seen numerous players progress to the professional ranks.  That includes eight players on Real Salt Lake’s roster and several other with the Monarchs.

Bringing all the teams under one roof provides a more conceivable carrot motivating the young players throughout their development.

“This is incredible for so many reasons.  First, to see what Mr. Hansen is investing in the future of us – Real Salt Lake and the Monarchs – and American soccer,” RSL Head Coach Mike Petke said.  “This is going to provide us with every single thing we need under the sun to be successful.  Then it’s in our hands to make it a success.”

Added Real Monarchs Head Coach Mark Briggs, “It’s going to be huge for the development of the club, for the development of the players and the development of the staff as well.  It’s going to be a world-class facility.  I’m excited to get here and for the players to get here and for the club to be in one facility.”

Academy players will live in apartments and go through schooling at the exclusive STEM school located at the facility.  In addition to those classrooms and apartments, the main building will also hold locker rooms for each team, advanced weight-training and athletic training facilities, offices for the technical staff and the largest single-span steel structure in North America – which will hold two full-sized indoor fields.  Just north of the main building will be the Zions Bank Stadium, where the Monarchs will play their home games beginning later this season.  The 5,000-seat stadium will also be used for SLCC and local rec leagues.

These facilities and amenities separate the Zion’s Bank Real Academy from any other structure like it in the country.

“This to me could turn out to be the premier soccer academy in the country based on the housing for the kids, the schooling for the kids and the soccer facilities for the kids,” Petke said.  “I can’t imagine any kid whose family sees this won’t want their kids to play here.”

In addition to all of the benefits to the community and to the club, the partnership with Zion’s Bank also marries Real Salt Lake with a premier organization that has been integral in the growth and development in the State of Utah and its communities.  That is both a privilege and inspiration to Hansen.

“Zion’s Bank is an exceptional institution any way you look at it.  They are the epicenter of most things that are great that happen in our state,” he said.  “I congratulate them for recognizing what this can mean for our state and truly asking how they can help.  We want to make sure this is a great investment for them.”

That feeling, according to Executive Vice President of Marketing and Communications Rob Brough, is mutual.

“Over the last 13 years in our relationship with Real Salt Lake, we’ve seen how not only has soccer grown, but Real has been the facilitator of soccer growing in the community.  As we’ve seen that growth and that success and Dell Loy’s vision, it’s a no-brainer for us to want to be a part of it,” Brough said.  “It’s more than just a building.  This is about a community.”

All of these structures were built by Wasatch Construction and Hansen was effusive in his praise of the work done at all levels to complete the project.

“I’m impressed with the great number of workers who put in the work here every day to execute the vision that’s going to be a great asset to our community and our state,” he said.  “I’m just grateful we have so many people working as hard here as they do every day.”

The facility will first open its doors for the high school in August, while the Monarchs and RSL will move in over the winter.