SANDY, Utah – Although Real Salt Lake founder Dave Checketts sold off his remaining ownership in the club to local real-estate mogul Dell Loy Hansen on Thursday, his footprint will long remain with the club and the state of Utah.
“What we created is something we set out to create – a wonderful asset for the people of Utah,” said Checketts (above, left) at a press conference Thursday afternoon at Rio Tinto Stadium. “A place where they could come and be unified and watch the beautiful game. And as MLS grows in the world, this stadium, this team will be an even more important part of the message of what soccer means in the United States and the state of Utah.”
Despite the Salt Lake City area's relatively small population compared to other markets, Checketts believed he could make a pro soccer team a success, and his tenure in charge certainly validates that belief.
RSL have not only enjoyed success on the field, most notably an MLS Cup title in 2009, but also opened the seventh soccer-specific stadium in league history, which has been well-used and averaged a 95 percent capacity with 11 of 20 sellouts in 2012.
Checketts' belief and vision to create an expansion team in the Beehive State wasn’t always easy, but with both the financial stability and the success on the pitch, Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber feels the model built in Utah is a big part of the ultimate goal of the league.
“In Major League Soccer, we have this dream to build what we call a ‘Soccer Nation’ in America,” Garber added at the press conference. “When the league was founded in 1996, it is hard to have thought back then that we would be sitting here today in a market like Salt Lake City, which is a smaller market than many others in the United States, and to have a team that matters so much in the community. And the reason it matters is because this sport resonates not just in big cities with large populations like LA or New York and Chicago, it could live and succeed anywhere.
“The fact that we have such incredible success in a place like Salt Lake City empowers everybody that cares about the game in the United States to believe that this plan, this dream to be a true ‘Soccer Nation’ is probably being lived and being a reality in many, many places because of the success that we’ve had since 2005 in Salt Lake City.”
Hansen, who originally bought a minority stake in the team right before the club’s run to MLS Cup 2009, is happy to try to continue the club's success into the future. He knows the effect RSL have on the fans and community, and is thrilled at the chance to make his own mark.
“When you take this small market, the little David that could, and you go up and down the West Coast and beat those franchises, that goes in the local paper," Hansen said. “With the governor making Utah the most business-friendly state in America, I guarantee you Real Salt Lake and the Utah Jazz have had a part in that.”