If a Messi-caliber player exists somewhere in Utah, whether it’s in Logan or St. George, Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen has made a huge financial commitment to find and develop that player.
Prior to Saturday’s match with rival Colorado, Hansen unveiled plans for the construction of a $50 million soccer complex in Herriman. The complex will include new training facilities for Real Salt Lake and the Real Monarchs, in addition to a charter school for the Real Salt Lake Academy.
Groundbreaking is slated sometime next month, with the first phase scheduled to be completed by August 2017 in time for the RSL Academy school year. Real Salt Lake and the Real Monarchs will begin utilizing the facility full time in advance of the 2018 season.
“We will have the most powerful community and youth training system in the United States. We will be akin to Barcelona, to the Netherlands and a number of teams in England,” said Hansen. “We’ve decided instead of taking baby steps let’s just take the big step and get there. That’s the vision this organization has.”
The facility will include eight soccer fields — five natural grass and three turf fields. Two of the indoor fields will be housed inside a 208,000-square-foot indoor structure. RSL boasts that the indoor facility will be the largest pre-engineered freespan building in North America.
Five of the six outdoor fields will be regulation-sized fields, while the fifth will be high-school sized.
“We have just taken Utah and (proved) that being the smallest state doesn’t mean you can’t be the most powerful state,” said Hansen.
Hansen envisions the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) charter school becoming the “Harvard of Soccer.” The 250-student facility will be a mix of out-of-state RSL Academy student-athletes and local students interested in the curriculum of the high school.
The 42 acres the facility will be built on is about 10 minutes southwest of Herriman High School, just off of the Mountain View Corridor.
“From a national and international perspective, Herriman city is going to be heralded throughout this world and that’s going to be a great marketing tool and great economic driver for our city,” said Herriman Mayor Carmen Freeman.
Hansen also announced the creation of the nonprofit RSL Youth Academy Foundation. It will create regional training centers across Utah and potentially in Arizona, with the first phase slated for North Logan, Ogden and West Valley City. Orem and St. George will be in the second phase.
These $2 million indoor/outdoor facilities will focus on an RSL-designed curriculum for an estimated 60,000 players (under 14), coaches and referees.
These satellite facilities in conjunction with the Herriman epicenter should help RSL identify and develop the best youth soccer players in Utah — which Hansen said will be inclusive of all demographics.
“It allows us to establish an identity within our state. We’re such a family oriented club. … This gives us the opportunity to truly build from a younger age,” said RSL general manager Craig Waibel.
RSL will continue to operate its academy in Casa Grande, Arizona, even though Waibel said the specifics of how those will mesh remain to be worked out.
James Edward is the Deseret News prep editor and Real Salt Lake beat writer. EMAIL: email@example.com