In a press conference held Wednesday, July 14, 2004, MLS Commissioner Don Garber, Sports Capital Partners Chairman Dave Checketts, Utah Soccer LLC President Dan Checketts, Utah Soccer LLC Chief Executive Dean Howes, Utah Youth Soccer Association President Paul Burke, and MLS Chief Operating Officer Mark Abbott, announced that Salt Lake City was awarded an MLS expansion franchise for the 2005 season and will become the 12th team in the league.
Don Garber - MLS Commissioner
Dave Checketts - Chairman, Sports Capital Partners
Dan Checketts - President, Utah Soccer LLC
Dean Howes - Chief Executive, Utah Soccer LLC
Paul Burke - President, Utah Youth Soccer Association
Mark Abbott - MLS Chief Operating Officer
DAVE CHECKETTS OPENING STATEMENT:
"I am pleased to announce that starting in April of 2005 my partners and I at Sports Capital have secured an MLS expansion franchise and will begin play at Rice-Eccles Stadium in April 2005. This was, like every other deal that happens in life, a little bit difficult. We thought we had the deal done. We had purchased an option to bring a team to Utah and it was only an option at that point in time. And suddenly there was increased competition from other cities, mostly Seattle. And so, at a key moment, in Commissioner Garber's office a few weeks ago I had to make a decision about whether or not I was just going to live with the option and maybe get edged out in 2005 or go ahead and buy the club and become the 12th team in Major League Soccer. And I made the decision that for my hometown and for doing it right and doing it here, I wanted to buy the team. And so I told Commissioner Garber at that time we were going to be the 12th team and we were going to have that team in Salt Lake City. And I'm pleased to announce to all of you today will begin play in April 2005.
"But MLS is a sport on the rise. This is the right time. I am thrilled to be bringing an MLS team here. We will offer very low priced tickets and have fans involved in a world class game.
"Soccer is the number one sport in the world. It is really growing in this country and this is a League that is filled with very strong and visionary owners like Bob Kraft, Phil Anschutz and Lamar Hunt. These are people who are committed to soccer. Stan Kroenke, who owns the Avalanche and the Denver Nuggets is the owner in that marketplace. These are people that I have been familiar with in the NHL and the NFL and want to be their partner.
"Soccer is a great sport, it's a great unifier. It will be affordable, exciting family entertainment. We're just going to make it work. That has to be our attitude. We're going to make it work and we're going to make it a part of this community. It wasn't that long ago it seems that I came here and the Jazz had 1500 season tickets and averaged 6600 people a game in the old Salt Palace. With Larry Miller and Frank Layden we began to think what the Jazz could mean in this community in their own arena, hosting the NBA finals and championship finals. As we've all seen this come to pass we've known what that has meant to this city. So that same attitude will help us make this work. We're going to invest significant private capital, our own money, in not only securing the franchise but building the stadium.
"Finally, I think that this city has tremendous pride. As I thought about edging out Seattle or San Antonio, I just have great affection for this city. It's meant so much to me in my life. This is my effort with my partners to give something back that will put Salt Lake on the international scale because that's what soccer is. As we make announcements in the coming weeks about a team name, about a general manager, about a coach, and then as we enter into the drafts in November and January as we start building a club, I think the excitement will surely build here, and I think we're going to have a lot of fun. If you can't have fun in sports, you just don't belong. There were times in New York in the last 10 years that I would not describe as fun but overall it's a great memory. And I have even better memories of my early days in sports here in the early 80s trying to build the Utah Jazz into a solid franchise.
"It's a privilege to be back here, I hope you can accept this offering in the spirit in which it was meant. I want to do something great for my hometown, my home state, and bring to people a team that they can really be proud of and be involved with."
DON GARBER OPENING COMMENTS:
"I cannot tell you enough how pleased I am to be here in Salt Lake City with you, your partners, your family, and your friends and all of the supporters and dignitaries that are joining us here today for a very special day in the history of soccer in the United States of America. Every project, every business, every movement experiences those seminal events that lay the foundation for their future and today we celebrate one of those milestones in the history of Major League Soccer. Today our great sport, our great league is moving forward boldly and aggressively, and very importantly, it is moving forward. We're here this morning to announce that Salt Lake City will be part of the first new round of expansion for MLS since 1998 and the latest development in this new era of growth, this new era of opportunity and promise for our nine-year-old league.
"In April 2005 professional soccer will have a home right here in Salt Lake City. Players throughout the United States and throughout the world will come here and live in the state of Utah and live in Salt Lake City and will play right here in Rice-Eccles Stadium. Hopefully at some point in the future they'll have a soccer complex to play in that will be the focal point for the sport. Not just for the team but for the sport, for the community and for everybody that cares about the game here in this region.
"As I mentioned they'll live here in town, they'll be embraced by Salt Lake's famous warmth, sense of family and sense of community. You will be proud of these young men. They will be proud to represent this great city. They will be proud to be part of America's Division I professional soccer league, a league that is very quickly becoming the destination of choice for the top players here and throughout the Western hemisphere.
"Only nine years ago, our League was founded by men of great vision, men like Lamar Hunt, the only man that's inducted into three professional sports halls of fame, like Phil Anschutz and the Kraft family, who prominently live in their communities and believe that America deserves a professional soccer league that provides opportunities for young men to play right here at home in front of their friends and family at the highest level in a world-class environment. And basically, and most importantly, providing an inspirational opportunity for those 18 million young soccer players that live throughout this country to dream to someday to play here in this stadium or in stadiums throughout their country and become a professional soccer player representing Major League Soccer and maybe someday, representing the United States of America on the world stage.
"For those of you who don't know, the United States is ranked seventh in the world among the great soccer nations ahead of countries like Germany and Portugal. They're one of the top teams in the world, and that emergence is based on Major League Soccer providing opportunities for hundreds and hundreds of young men to come up through the grass-roots system that exists right here in the state of Utah, the highest per-capita participation state in the United States and these kids will have an opportunity to play here at home and to play in an ever-growing and an ever more popular Major League Soccer. It's a league that we believe, is positioned perfectly for the changing demographics and the increasing global nature of our economy and of our country, a league we call Major League Soccer, a league for a new America.
"In less than one year, we've attracted three new investors who share in Dave Checketts' vision, who share in the vision of Lamar Hunt, Robert Kraft, Stan Kroenke and a Mexican businessman named Jorge Vergara, who will join the League as the 11th team and announce the location of that new team next week. Today, very importantly, we're very pleased to welcome a new visionary to the MLS family. A man who has proven to be one of the most successful executives in professional sports, a man who has countless opportunities to get involved in many different sports, and a man who stepped up and said, 'I choose to be involved in soccer.' Dave, we're very, very pleased to welcome you to the family. I speak on behalf of our hundreds of players, our hundreds of administrators, our millions of fans throughout the country, and on behalf of the MLS Board of Governors welcome Salt Lake City's own Dave Checketts to Major League Soccer.
"We look forward to working very closely with you, with your partners, with your family, the soccer fans throughout the city and throughout the state to help build this sport here in this region. We're very happy about this opportunity and really believe that this city is well-positioned to support a Major League Soccer team. It's the right market, it's got the right fan base and we believe it's the right kind of city that believes in all of those things that Major League Soccer represents: players as role models, players that are connected to the community, a team that cares about the community, and a League that is very driven by trying to make our country a better place through the sport of soccer.
"On behalf of all of major league soccer, thank you for your future support, your belief in what professional soccer can be and we look forward to being back here soon to announce the name, the logo, and lots of exciting plans for April 2005."
DEAN HOWES OPENING STATEMENT:
"First of all, I'd like to thank David (Checketts) and Sports Capital Partners for their efforts in bringing a soccer team to Salt Lake City. I'd like to thank Commissioner Garber for his efforts. I think one of the aces we have in the hole besides Dave Checketts was the fact that Salt Lake City has truly qualified itself for this team. It's a beautiful city, it's got great residents, the families, the youth soccer program is just second to none. And I would like to recognize this great city as a place that is qualified to have a Major League Soccer team.
"As Dave (Checketts) already talked about, I've been asked to head up the effort for this Utah soccer club, and I'm excited to do so.
"We believe that it's really important to be involved with soccer at all levels, at the youth level, at the club level, for all the amateur levels and associations that we have here in the state and we look forward to working with each and every one of you to make soccer the kind of sport that it should be.
"May I finish by personally thanking my good friend Dave Checketts and thanking Don Garber and Mark Abbott, who has worked hard with me over the last couple of months. And of course, thanks for the support of all the guys over at SportWest for making this happen, as well."
PAUL BURKE OPENING COMMENTS:
"I was born in Salt Lake City and I grew up playing in the youth soccer leagues here in Utah and it's a proud day to see Major League Soccer, the highest level of soccer in this country, come to our community. It's truly a pleasure to welcome the world's game to a city that has proven its stripes as an international city.
"The Utah Youth Soccer Association is the largest youth soccer association in the state and as you've heard has the highest level per capita of youth participation in the country. The arrival of MLS to Salt Lake City and to Utah we hope will further galvanize the soccer community and will hopefully even further grow the participation in our game. We're very hopeful that the youth players in our state and the adults and volunteers who support youth soccer will also come and support Major League Soccer. In turn, we know that Major League Soccer will provide excellent role models and players for our youth players to emulate and to be inspired by and it's truly a historic day for the Utah soccer community. I thank Commissioner Garber, both Mr. Checketts (Dave and Dan), for bringing this team and I look forward to seeing Utah embrace the world's game further and make it truly our own."
CHECKETTS ON TICKET PRICES FOR THE NEW TEAM:
"Well, ticket prices in soccer, because you have more seats, are lower than the other sports. I think about Madison Square Garden where the front row was 2250 - that's 2250 dollars. Our price range in the early years will probably go with a low price ticket of $8, average ticket price somewhere around $14-15, and high price probably in the 20s. I'd like to keep this in such a way that families can really decide to come. There will be family packages. Summer nights in Salt Lake City, Utah are about as pretty as anywhere in the world, so I have this dream that we're all going to be sitting in this great stadium with terrific views of the mountains and we won't have broken the bank to be there."
CHECKETTS ON A SOCCER-SPECIFIC STADIUM FOR THE NEW TEAM:
"The stadium is a very important part of the experience. There is a reason, in my view, why soccer doesn't work in a football stadium. You can have 20,000 people in a football stadium and it looks empty. That's not the only reason. A stadium built for soccer is also a great stadium for outdoor concerts. But for the soccer experience you really need 25,000 to 27,000 seats. No more than that. And the experience and the sightlines for people gathered in a stadium like that just enhance the game so much. That's why I've already decided that we have to invest a lot of our own money, a lot of private capital to make that happen if that's what it takes. I believe that will be what it takes to build a stadium in this city."