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Herriman • Donning an orange vest, cream-colored hard hat, jeans and a pair of tennis shoes, Dell Loy Hansen spoke as loudly as he could.
The Real Salt Lake owner lost his voice while battling a cold, so as he led a group of new sponsors, RSL staffers, construction managers and media members, Hansen said, "Let's go for a hike."
Tucked beneath the green foothills in the southwest corner of the Salt Lake Valley, Hansen's estimated $60 million, 132-acre soccer academy and training facility is rising quickly. And now it has a name.
The future home base of RSL's day-to-day operations for the first team, USL affiliate Real Monarchs and the estimated three academy teams will be known as the Zions Bank Real Academy.
The deal between RSL and Zions Bank was announced on Wednesday, with Hansen referring to longtime Utah financial institution as his "mega-partner." Zions Bank not only will sponsor the entire facility and the charter school, but also the 5,000-seat stadium slated to be ready for play by mid-October that will eventually be the home of the Monarchs. It will be called Zions Bank Stadium.
"Instead of fracturing [the sponsorhsips]," Hansen said, "we really were happy to put it all under one umbrella."
The Real Academy will feature 10 total fields. Four of the seven regulation-sized training fields (80 yards wide by 120 yards long) will be natural grass fields just east of the facility. The remaining three, including the Monarchs' future stadium, will feature an artificial grass surface imported from the Netherlands.
"I knew this back years ago, but now seeing something like this, MLS is here to stay," RSL coach Mike Petke said. "It's going to outgrow my kids and probably my grandkids. The reason behind it being the intelligent people that own teams and run the league are investing into so many things."
The two other artificial fields will be held inside the Training Center, a massive, 208,000 square-foot structure. According to a release, it's the largest pre-engineered freespan building in North America.
RSL's new facility also will include a campus for a 300-student STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) charter school that will be part of the Jordan School District. The school will feature 77,000 square feet of classroom space and a 90-acre campus.
RSL's existing academy in Casa Grande, Ariz., will be relocated to Herriman by the end of August, Hansen confirmed, when coaching and student housing becomes available. The student-athletes in Arizona are already registered for the new school. Hansen also said RSL has enough applications to theoretically fill the charter school.
"We expect a lot of special kids to come out of here," he added.
Hansen's dream involving the new academy complex goes beyond the steel beams and fields. The RSL owner said his aim is to entice the world's most storied soccer clubs to make Utah a summertime, high-altitude training destination. A year after hosting Italian Serie A club Inter Milan in an exhibition, RSL will welcome in Manchester United at Rio Tinto Stadium on Monday, July 17.
"In a funny way, Utah offers a lot to a team that wants a little retreat. They want to build their market," Hansen said, "but they really want life to work and we're taking away all the headaches of moving throughout the United States."
As powerhouse clubs traverse the U.S. every summer in tours that double as both preseason schedules and branding campaigns, Hansen believes the new facility can offer a lot for a team to come to Utah, stay for an allotted amount of time, train at 4,500 feet elevation and face RSL in an exhibition match. Hansen said he has already worked out a deal with an airline that would fly clubs into Salt Lake City.
"We can house them," he said. "All we want is one game. We want to see Chelsea here, Real Madrid here, Barcelona here, Bayern Munich here. We're building relations all across Europe to invite teams and then they're going to go back and say, 'That was the very best place we trained for the summer.'"
RSL and the Monarchs won't move to the Zions Bank Real Academy full-time until next February. But as the academy settles in this fall and the new stadium eventually becomes ready for play, the indoor turf fields are expected to follow. Hansen said they are expected to be ready for use by mid-November.
As the group touring the facility moved from spot to spot Wednesday, Petke hung back, taking it all in. The RSL coach looked up inside the massive indoor facility and joked that he'd have to fine players who managed to shank a shot high enough to hit the ceiling.
As he stood a few feet away from where his future office would be overlooking the valley, Petke wasn't hesitant in wanting to match the expectation that Hansen has laid out by putting $60 million of his own money into this project.
"When those players walk through this facility for the first time, they're going to realize very quickly that the investment Mr. Hansen has made in them and believes in them … things are going to have to be raised," Petke said. "That's going to become clear to everybody."
Zions Bank Real Academy
• Estimated $60 million project on 132-acre plot in Herriman
• 5,000-seat stadium for Monarchs, other local sporting events
• Training center features a 208,000 square-foot indoor structure
• Real Academy includes campus for 300-student STEM residential charter school
Philadelphia Union at Real Salt Lake
P At Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy
Saturday, 6 p.m.
TV • KMYU
• Charter school featuring 350 students expected to open by end of August
• RSL's academy, currently located in Casa Grande, Ariz., will move north by end of August
• Academy locker rooms expected to be open by mid-September
• Stadium expected to be ready for play by mid-October
• Indoor training structure expected to be ready for play by mid-November
• RSL and Monarchs won't relocate to Herriman full-time until next February