This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
As he delivered his pitch and explained why he wanted to spend upwards of $18 million of his own money to construct a soccer stadium near downtown Salt Lake City, Dell Loy Hansen went on a tangent. To those who know Hansen, it's not a surprise. Real Salt Lake's owner transitioned from laying down the initial groundwork for a presentation that unveiled the USL Pro team Real Monarchs and the vital role the minor-league club would play to its parent franchise to speaking on growing up in rural Randolph.
Hansen described the small town in Rich County in Northern Utah as a "one-word, two-bar town." He said back then folks would go to church and eventually hit the bar for a cup of coffee. His connection to the Utah State Fairpark where he spoke to a 14-member board Wednesday goes back decades to when he and his brother came to Salt Lake and competed in the sheep contest.
"I've had a long, deep rural experience with the State Fair," he said. "[Coming down to Salt Lake City], this was a little mind-blowing. I do think there is a huge place in recognizing, celebrating and honoring Utah's rural roots."
The Fairpark, for all of its offerings, is one of the more unique and historical destination spots in the state. Along 1000 West and 150 North, its located in an urban community and demographic that Hansen has targeted for both the minor-league stadium as well as expanding RSL's soccer reach. In his presentation, in which he and the Fairpark board invited members of the media to sit in on, Hansen knew he needed a unanimous green light in order to start official negotiations.
So RSL's owner started off with his story. His message was that RSL's USL Pro club and stadium wouldn't be a "taker" rather than a contributor to revitalizing the State Fair and the grounds. Fairpark Chairman of the Board Roger Beattie, a supporter of the move to partner with Hansen and RSL, said there have been ongoing discussions with Hansen for some time.
"Long before anybody else knew about it, we were in discussions with Dell Loy," Beattie said. "The board is excited about it and the potential and opportunity. The presentation was wonderful because a lot of them have never had a chance to meet Dell Loy, personally. Always to have not just the face of someone and the name there, but to feel his enthusiasm and eagerness to proceed, that certainly helps."
More than just the Monarchs
A USL license has already been solidified. The Real Monarchs will be part of the USL Pro league in 2015, Hansen said Wednesday. They'll play their games at Rio Tinto Stadium, but need their own permanent home. In the presentation, Hansen explained of the specific economic impact the club would have if the stadium plans were agreed upon and moved forward.
"These will be exciting players to watch," Hansen said. "It's about building aspirational soccer for the youth."
The league's calendar runs March through November. The graphic posted an anticipated average attendance of 6-to-8,000 per game. Estimated annual attendance is 84,000 for 14 home matches and the average price of admission is $12.25.
Anticipated direct revenue from the ground lease ($10,000 a year), parking revenue for stadium events ($365,000 a year) and concert event revenue during the State Fair ($200-to-$500,000) rounded out to anywhere from $575-to-$875,000 a year.
Hansen is exploring a ground lease of 50 years with two 10-year options. Beyond that, he delved into the W-Pro women's team a second-level women's pro team he'd want to start from the ground up with 10 home games each year with a season running from April to September. Along that note, he spoke about "La Liga Real," which would be a day for amateur Latino soccer men's leagues at the potential stadium. Hansen said every match would be filmed and then shown on TV, although he didn't go into more specifics.
The supposed stadium could, according to the presentation, be a prime spot for concerts. Rio Tinto Stadium is now out of the concert business as the pitch has taken a beating in recent seasons with extracurricular activities at RSL's stadium in Sandy. It could hold as many as 18,000 for specific events and would be used to the Fairpark's discretion during State Fair time. When the Fair rolls around, the Monarchs and RSL will plan their schedule around it. Extending his point to game days, he said if a match theoretically starts at 7 p.m., the Fairpark could be planning a lead-in activity of any sort a few hours before the match.
"We want to be totally and involved friend, neighbor and participant," Hansen said. "If there's something you need, you need to ask that from us."
And yes, if the stadium is built within the next year, the pitch would be artificial turf.
The waiting game
Now Hansen, RSL, the fan base and even the Fairpark board must wait. Beattie said the board doesn't have a specific target date to make a decision due to "too many elements still that need to be researched and reviewed." Beattie said that, ideally, negotiations could be concluded by the end of the year so construction on the stadium can be underway.
When asked how this stadium project, if approved, could positively affect the Fairpark, Beattie said it would be a revelation.
"For decades, a significant number of decades, the Fairpark has struggled and has not had the capitol infusion necessary to maintain some of the structures and buildings," he said. "But you have seen actually a remarkable turnaround in the last few years."
"The potential of this is really to improve and enhance what we have here," Beattie continued. "We're not talking about building a fancy stadium that does not fit with our wonderful historic buildings here. We're talking about a multipurpose facility that is wonderful for the community, wonderful for this part of town that would fit in and mesh with the 13 historic buildings we have. We would hope and we anticipate that it would be a great asset. And that's what we hope comes down at the end of the day."
The Fairpark's board is in discussion with the state regarding extending its lease on the 65 acres of land, an agreement that is due to expire within the next two years. Beattie said a number of reviews and analyses have been conducted regarding the effectiveness of the Fair at the Fairpark and the consensus is that the State Fair should stay where it is. Hansen's stadium would allow the Fairpark to not use state bonds for strengthening its rodeo arena and building a new expo center.
Much of what was entailed in the presentation, Beattie said, would help avoid the use of bonds.
"Here's the opportunity where someone has stepped up and said, 'I'm willing to invest $18 million and give the facility appropriately to the state," he explained. "And that's a hard thing to turn down. That's a very hard thing to turn down."
A president and Monarch
Sitting next to Hansen during the presentation Wednesday afternoon was Rob Zarkos. He's been named club president of the Real Monarchs. Zarkos has spent the last five years working for Hansen as an attorney and in-house counsel. Before moving to Park City two months ago, he was heading operations for one of Hansen's real estate developments in Bellevue, Wash.
But Zarkos describes himself as a "huge soccer nut," and for the last two years he's been bugging Hansen to try and get into anything on the operational side of soccer. A year ago, Hansen brought in Zarkos to work as an in-house counsel for RSL, doing major contract negations for Hansen and RSL team president Bill Manning.
So why seek out a gig as president of a USL Pro club?
"I love the players' side obviously and I love watching it, but the business side is really interesting to me and really finding efficiencies, increasing revenues and that's been our model," Zarkos said. "RSL has really perfected that. It's really interesting going to these [MLS] league meetings and hearing how other people are doing, seeing how some teams are losing several millions of dollars a year. We're one of the smallest markets, yet we're not doing that. I've always liked working with Dell Loy because of that. It's like an MBA course shoved down to two weeks. The sports side is exciting. It's fun. There's a funny thing about providing entertainment to people, but doing it efficiently. That seemed exciting to me."
Asked if there are any core principles he'll need to implement within the Monarchs, Zarkos said RSL's established set will trickle down easily to the minor-league club.
"We have great leaders at RSL," he said. "Bill is an incredible president who has given me incredible guidance, and at the end of the day, I'm executing the vision of both him and the owner. It's not me coming up with great theories on how we're going to run this team. We have a tried and proved system that we run at our academy, we'll run it at our mid-level USL team and we'll run it at the top. So it's going to be integrated all the way through. This will be an organization where they're separate entities, but the philosophies will be all the same."
Zarkos said the Monarchs are expected to have a coaching staff and an idea of what the roster may look like in 2015 within the next couple of months.