RSL Cup blog taking a long much needed break

I've been a fan of Real Salt Lake since it joined MLS and took to the field in 2005, and I've been a fan of MLS since it began in 1996.

However, over the past couple of years, and especially the last several months, I've began to see the ugly underbelly of this sport. Most likely it has always been there and I was just too naïve to see it, but I cannot not see it anymore.

I'm taking a much needed break from the sport of soccer. I may or may not be back. I may or may not update this blog, I don't know. It would be a shame since I've had it up and running for almost 10 years, but the fun I once had just isn't there any more.

Hopefully you fare better.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

DC United stadium renderings

DC United released these renderings back in June of how their new stadium might look.

The stadium saga for United over the years has been such however that there are literally dozens of renderings out there of what their stadium could look like. Hopefully the final product will look like this however because it looks awesome.

I'm not sure what the MetroStars' logo is doing there in the last photo.

Good stuff.

A Home for Soccer, and Renewal, in Washington

(by T.J. Kirkpatrick 12-16-14)

There are no buzzards at Buzzard Point, a blighted, tucked-away corner of the nation’s capital that waits silently for prosperity to come its way. Its time may not be far off.

On Wednesday, the District of Columbia Council is expected to take a major step toward realizing that hoped-for future by approving financing for a $300 million Major League Soccer stadium to be built near the Anacostia River, in an area now largely regarded as an industrial wasteland.
Under the plan, the D.C. United team and the District government will split the cost evenly. If all goes as planned, the stadium will be completed in 2017. The District’s half will go toward land acquisition and related infrastructure improvements, while D.C. United will pay to build the stadium itself.
City leaders say the 20,000-seat stadium will serve as a catalyst for economic development for this area of southwest Washington, the way that Nationals Park, home of the Washington Nationals baseball team, did for its formerly stagnant neighborhood just a few blocks north and east.
This has been the case in other Washington neighborhoods after the city voted to approve major new public venues, including the Verizon Center, home to the N.B.A.’s Wizards and the N.H.L.’s Capitals since 1997, and the 2.3-million-square-foot Walter E. Washington Convention Center, completed in 2003, in revitalized Mount Vernon Square. Council votes on these earlier projects were close. By contrast, council support for the soccer stadium is unanimous.
In addition to the stadium, D.C. United has plans for development on three adjoining acres, according to Jason M. Levien, the team’s managing general partner.
“We don’t want to have just a stadium in isolation,” he said. “We’ve had discussions with several folks in the hotel and retail space and gotten some real interest. We think it can spur some economic development. We want to be part of that.”
Right now, there is anything but. In these few blocks wedged between Fort McNair and South Capitol Street, a main artery, are a closed electric power plant, sand and gravel plants, a salvage yard and acres of parking lots and unused space. Though the location seems remote, it is about a mile from the National Mall and the Capitol.
The deal fell apart after the council’s consultant said the Reeves building had been undervalued. District officials have indicated that they may acquire the property by eminent domain, in which case a court could establish its fair market value.
“We just want to be treated fairly,” said Matthew J. Klein, president of Akridge. “We are open to constructive dialogue with the city to make sure this all happens.”
Akridge is also eager to develop an additional seven acres it owns at Buzzard Point. “We bought this property in 2006 with the idea this would be in the path of development,” he said.
While new baseball stadiums have helped reinvigorate inner cities across the country, many soccer stadiums are not in a city’s center but on its periphery, or even in suburbs. Mr. Levien said D.C. United, which has been playing in the 53-year-old Robert F. Kennedy Stadium since 1996, “scoured the District” for a new location.
“There is really no other area with this development opportunity so close to downtown, close to the Capitol,” Mr. Levien said. “We’re very bullish on it.”
He and a partner acquired a controlling interest in the team for $60 million in 2012. Mr. Levien said the team was not yet profitable, in part because of the lack of lucrative corporate suites at R.F.K. Stadium. D.C. United, however, has won four Major League Soccer cups, he noted, and attendance has been steadily growing to about 20,000 a game.
The new stadium will be the most expensive to be built in the 19-team league, but city officials say they believe it will pay dividends.
Other cities are making similar bets. Orlando, Fla., whose expansion team will join the league next year, is building a new soccer stadium and anticipates $1.2 billion in long-term economic benefits. In Las Vegas, which is competing for a franchise, a new stadium is being promoted as a way to gain 1,000 jobs and $3 billion in economic benefits.
Can a soccer stadium transform a neighborhood? In Washington, where a seemingly inexorable march of redevelopment and gentrification is sweeping across the city, the D.C. United stadium is seen as the next logical step.
“Soccer is so much the sport of millennials and attractive to those diverse audiences not necessarily attracted to baseball and hockey,” said Ellen McCarthy, the District of Columbia’s acting planning director.
The soccer stadium, she said, “is the spice, the ingredient that can make further investments occur in that area and enliven it.”
With only 20 home games on the team’s schedule, Mr. Levien said the owners were looking forward to holding other events at the stadium, including concerts, college football, lacrosse games and rugby matches.
Mayor Vincent C. Gray predicted last week that the D.C. United stadium would create “by our best estimates” $1.6 billion in “economic opportunity,” support more than 1,000 full-time jobs and generate a total of about $65 million in “other benefits” related to the project. Mr. Gray said the District’s direct investment, capped at $150 million, was expected to be less than half the total cost — closer to $139 million.
The 406-page, $200,000 consultant’s report presented to the council last month buttressed such optimism, but also cautioned that “Buzzard Point is highly unlikely to repeat the rapid large-scale development boom” that followed construction of the other sites.
That would be just fine with Rhonda Hamilton, 37, a resident of nearby Syphax Gardens, a public housing project of garden apartments built in 1960. Ms. Hamilton, who grew up there, fears that gentrification could result in the loss of affordable housing.
Already, planning is underway to convert another low-income complex, Greenleaf Gardens, into mixed-income housing. Altogether, about 1,000 units of subsidized or public housing are within a few blocks of the stadium site.
“This project has the possibility to put the housing in jeopardy,” said Ms. Hamilton, who represents Syphax and James Creek, another housing project, on the District’s advisory neighborhood commission for the area.
“I’m fearful with all the changes,” she said. “There is the potential to change it from the community all of us love and enjoy.”
The neighborhood has a draft agreement with D.C. United for the team to provide community benefits, including summer youth soccer scholarships, summer youth jobs, free meeting room space and community use days at the new stadium for nonprofit groups. But the District rejected community requests to guarantee legislatively that the housing would be preserved.
Mayor-elect Muriel Bowser, who heads the council’s economic development committee, said preserving affordable housing was also “a very big concern” of hers.
“We can’t afford to lose one unit of public housing,” Ms. Bowser said. But she said the stadium would have “absolutely no impact on the public housing there.”
She said she was looking forward to the new stadium’s completion during her administration, which begins next month.
“D.C.’s a sports town. We love our teams. The people are very excited about soccer,” Ms. Bowser said. “I went to a game recently over the summer. I’m learning the game. I’m sure I will attend my fair share of games.”


Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Beard departs

Real Salt Lake Trades Nat Borchers to Portland for Allocation Money

Borchers Departs RSL Tied For 2nd On The Club’s All-Time Appearance List

( 12-8-14)

Real Salt Lake has traded veteran defender Nat Borchers to the Portland Timbers in exchange for allocation money.  Per league and club policy, the amount of allocation money exchanged will not be disclosed.


My take:

It is sad to lose a player of Borchers' quality, and his contributions to RSL are many, but such is the life of professional soccer.

But the beard, the beard. I won't be sorry to see it go.

I know beards are all the rage now, the same as tattoos were say 5 or 6 years ago.

But seriously, are you concentrating more on your soccer play or your beard appearance?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

RSL qualifies for CONCACAF Champions League

( 12-7-14)

Real Salt Lake has qualified for the 2015-16 CONCACAF Champions League for the third time in club history. With the LA Galaxy’s win over the New England Revolution in the 2014 MLS Cup final on Sunday, Real Salt Lake earned qualification into the 2015-16 CONCACAF Champions League. CONCACAF Champions League is the annual continental club competition for the North American, Central American and Caribbean region.  The winner qualifies for the FIFA Club World Cup.

“What a phenomenal accomplishment to have qualified for CCL again,” said RSL General Manager Garth Lagerwey. “This tourney – extremely important to our club – helped put us on the map in 2010 when we were the first American team to win our group and again in 2011 when we were the only American team to reach the final.

“Earning this berth in some ways validates our 15-win, 56-point season, a strong accomplishment in a difficult Western Conference,” continued Lagerwey. “We have been working to get back into CCL since we got knocked out in the Fall of 2012.  This is a great opportunity for us to take on the best teams in the region as we continue to grow the next generation of RSL.”

RSL finished the 2014 MLS regular season with a 15-8-11 record (56 points) to earn the third seed in the Western Conference, and fourth overall during the 2014 MLS regular-season campaign.  By virtue of the Galaxy’s MLS Cup win after already previously qualifying, Real Salt Lake was the next in line for a berth and will make the club’s third appearance in the regional tournament.

According to the U.S. Soccer Federation, four CONCACAF Champions League spots are available for U.S.-based clubs, awarded to the winner of the U.S. Open Cup, the Supporters’ Shield, the MLS Cup and the best regular-season record in the conference opposite the Supporters’ Shield winners.

With Seattle Sounders FC (USA 2-seed) winning both the U.S. Open Cup and the Supporters’ Shield this year, the Galaxy had already qualified for the 2015-16 CONCACAF Champions’ League by virtue of having the next best regular-season record of those teams who didn’t already earn an automatic berth. By winning MLS Cup, Los Angeles jumped up to claim the top slot awarded to U.S. teams.  D.C. United had the best record in the Eastern Conference and secures the third U.S. slot. As a result of LA taking the slot awarded to the MLS Cup winner, the fourth spot goes to the next best team in the Supporters’ Shield standings that didn’t already qualify – Real Salt Lake.

RSL previously qualified for Champions League in the 2010-11 and 2012-13 tournaments, reaching the tournament final in 2011.  The club qualified for the 2010-11 tournament with its victory in the 2009 MLS Cup final and reached the tournament in 2012-13 with a third place finish in the Supporters’ Shield standings after the top two finishers qualified through other avenues.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The last Donovan - RSL match

RSL eliminated from MLS Cup playoffs after 5-0 loss to the L.A. Galaxy

(by Joseph D'Hippolito 11-9-14)

During the second leg of the Western Conference semifinal between Real Salt Lake and Los Angeles on Sunday night, a group of fans unveiled a large banner featuring a silhouette of the L.A. skyline underneath five stars with this caption:

"The stars shine bright In L.A."

That glow incinerated Real Salt Lake's hope to advance in the playoffs.

Landon Donovan amassed three goals and an assist, while Robbie Keane added another goal and three more assists to lead the Los Angeles Galaxy to a 5-0 rout in front of a sellout crowd of 27,000 at the StubHub Center.

The victory puts Los Angeles in the conference final against either the Seattle Sounders or FC Dallas in another two-game series for a berth in MLS Cup.

"It's going to take a special team to beat them. I don't see anybody beating them," said RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando, who finished with three saves despite allowing more goals than any of RSL's opponents had scored this year.

"They were on their game in every aspect: movement, bite, quality," RSL coach Jeff Cassar said about the Galaxy. "It was all there tonight for them. They played fantastic."

Nevertheless, RSL began the game by keeping the hosts pinned in their end for most of the first 10 minutes and defusing the Galaxy's energetic counterattack. Then Donovan struck.

After a series of passes in the 10th minute from Stefan Ishizaki on the right flank to Marcelo Sarvas to A.J. De La Garza in the penalty area, Donovan cut in front of defender Tony Beltran while running into the left side of the penalty area, and headed De La Garza's pass inside the near post from 4 yards.

"Landon battered me," Beltran said. "He was on another level. He's an incredible player and he had so much desire."

Then in the 20th minute, Donovan helped extend the Galaxy's lead to 2-0. After receiving Juninho's pass, Donovan crossed the ball from the left side of the penalty area to Keane, who slid to convert a 4-yard shot inside the right-wing post.

Donovan's assist was the 13th of his postseason career, putting him one away from Mauricio Cienfuegos' MLS record of 14 all-time playoff assists.

"He's got some fire in his belly, for sure," Rimando said of Donovan. "Tonight, you could see that he wants it bad."

Donovan, the all-time leading scorer for both MLS and the United States national team, announced in August that this season would be his last.

"He was showing up in so many different places on the field," Cassar said. "They have so much quality in the open field that when they turn and come at you, it's a problem."

Following Keane's goal, RSL collapsed.

"We lost our shape, our discipline," Cassar said. "We were getting stretched out. We were giving the ball up too often, too early, and we could never regain control of the ball to try to establish any tempo."

Donovan displayed his scoring skill again in the 55th minute. Keane sent a long pass between Beltran and Nat Borchers to Donovan at the left flank. Donovan drew Rimando away from the net, rounded him, and deposited a 17-yard diagonal shot from an extreme angle inside the far post.

RSL did not register a shot on goal until the 58th minute, when Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo lunged to his right to deflect Kyle Beckerman's 11-yard header with both hands. That shot would be RSL's last.

Sarvas extended the lead to 4-0 in the 63rd minute with a 13-yard shot through Rimando's legs. Donovan finished the scoring by volleying Keane's low chip from 9 yards in the 72nd minute.

Donovan now has 25 playoff goals in his MLS career. No other player has more than 16.

"If you're not good with the ball against L.A., they're going to make you pay," Cassar said. "We paid tonight. We paid a lot."

One player viewed that payment as a long-term installment plan.

"Certainly, it's tough to swallow," Beltran said. "It's going to be a long offseason, thinking about this game. It's going to be a very long offseason."

Saturday, November 8, 2014

NASL bids to overcome obstacles

( 12-2-13)

There are two elephants in the room. Two obstacles that the recently resuscitated North American Soccer League has to maneuver around without ignoring, angering or otherwise irking them. The first is Major League Soccer, comfortably the most successful professional soccer league in the history of the United States and Canada. The other is the NASL itself. The previous incarnation of it, that is, which folded amid financial ruin in 1984, only to be re-launched in 2011.

Three years in, things are going pretty well for the upstart league. It claims attendance was up some 30 percent this year, to somewhere between 5,000 and 6,000 per game. The New York Cosmos made their long-anticipated return in the fall season, which they won comfortably before lifting the Soccer Bowl, adding gravitas and attention.

And so the NASL has expansion on its mind, after two seasons in which it lost and gained a team. Next year, it will grow from eight to 11, one of whom, Indy Eleven, has already sold out the 7,000 season tickets on offer. But here’s where the ghost of the old NASL haunts the new. Some three decades ago, it had expanded far too quickly, bringing in shaky ownerships and uninterested markets. When attendance fell off, the bubble burst.

“Everyone remembers what happened and everyone watched other leagues in soccer and other sports fumble this one,” NASL commissioner Bill Peterson tells FOX Soccer. “The policy is to take it slow and steady and at the end of the day make sure we have the right owners in the right cities that will ensure long-term growth. We’re optimistic, but also being cautious and trying not to overlook things or make mistakes.”

Peterson explains that new ownerships are carefully vetted. “The advantage we have is that we’re decentralized and our owners come on board realizing that they’re responsible for all aspects of the club,” he says. Yet the league will add another two to four teams in 2015, meaning it could potentially have almost doubled from eight to 15 in just two years. The trick, then, is to grow quickly enough to develop a critical mass, but not so quick that the whole thing overheats and fizzles out.

Now, to that other elephant: MLS. The NASL was sanctioned by the United States Soccer Federation as the second division in professional soccer, even if no promotion, relegation or cross-over of any other kind exists. Yet the league’s ambitions are hardly befitting of a lower tier. “We have no interest in being a minor league system,” says Peterson. “Our goal in life is to create an exciting and competitive soccer league that is based on winning. I don’t think they’re sitting around in Indianapolis going, ‘Let’s see who NASL can develop for another league.’ They want their own team.”

The designation isn’t problematic just yet. “Nothing about that sanction limits our ability to do what we want to do,” says Peterson. “If we accomplish all of our goals, there will be a time to discuss that and if we don’t, we’ll have the most successful second division league ever.”

Ultimately, the NASL believes there are enough serious soccer fans in this country to support two professional leagues, even if both eventually grow to two dozen or so teams – MLS, now at 19, plans to go to 24 by 2020.

In that equation, the NASL has positioned itself as the anti-MLS, with its steep, high-eight figure expansion fees, byzantine regulations, complex roster limitations, salary caps and allocation funds. Entry for new owners is cheap and the business model simple and modest, meaning the league isn’t dependent on income from expansion fees and national broadcast deals, which are low and non-existent, respectively.

“We’re building this league on the premise that you can run it and break even with your sponsorship, ticket sales and your local broadcasts,” says Peterson. “If you achieve that; and we’re on path to do that — we have teams that are beyond break-even, we have others that are very close — then you don’t need to do those deals and therefore we’re free to be patient and do the deals that make the most sense for us. At some point, obviously, we’d like to prove that we’re worth those types of deals but we don’t have to for existence.”

The idea is for every club to be largely unregulated and entirely self-sustaining, rather than being subservient to the larger entity. That’s antithetical to the MLS model, but nevertheless the way things are done the world over. And Peterson believes it gives the NASL the best chance of survival. “Soccer is a global game,” he says. “And those guys [MLS] have been successful in building a domestic league. But we look at the sport differently. It’s a global market place, there’s a global soccer economy. In order to enter into that economy, you have to look and feel like that economy.

Still, Peterson is coy when asked if he sees MLS as a rival business. “We’re not competing with MLS,” he says. “We’re competing with ourselves to be competitive and to be relevant to as many fans as we possibly we can be. What they do doesn’t really affect what we do and vice versa. It’s not a competition.”

This argument largely holds up. NASL has moved into different markets than MLS has. Until last fall anyway, when the Cosmos landed in New York, where the league’s most ambitious club unabashedly operates in direct competition with the New Jersey-based, 18-year-old New York Red Bulls.

But that’s not quite how the NASL sees it. “Well, we were there first, weren’t we?” says Peterson. “Maybe they are competing with us for New York. Because we put a team in New York; they had one in New Jersey. And now they’re going to put one [New York City FC] in New York [in 2015].”

There, Peterson concedes, the supposed second division club rides in open rebellion against the so-called first division. “It’s healthy competition,” he says. “We’re not afraid to compete. We’d love to compete with them on the field, we’d love to compete with them for hearts and minds, and New York City is the type of market and a large enough market where that could happen. I do believe that healthy competition will bring more attention and attract more people to U.S. based professional soccer. We’re based on competition. We want to compete.”

If both leagues continue to be successful, continue to grow, that competition will play out in more markets than one, at increasingly higher stakes.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Orlando City stadium groundbreaking set for October 16

Early stadium design

New stadium design

( 9-26-14)
Orlando City SC and the City of Orlando today announced the ceremonial groundbreaking for the Downtown Soccer Stadium will take place on October 16, 2014, beginning at 5:00 p.m. The event will be open to the public and fans are encouraged to participate.

Specific details of the event will be released in the coming weeks but it will be held on the property located on the northwest corner of Church Street and Parramore Avenue.

“October 16 will be a landmark day for the community of Parramore, the City of Orlando, Orange County, our fans and our Club,” said Orlando City President and Founder Phil Rawlins. “We look forward to hosting an unforgettable, festive celebration to mark the ceremonial start of construction of what will be the best soccer stadium in the league.”

The Downtown Soccer Stadium is a 20,000-seat, state of the art venue designed to host Major League Soccer and other world class events. The stadium will be home to Orlando City SC beginning in the 2016 MLS season.

Columbus gets it right

Columbus Crew Soccer Club unveils new badge and brand identity
( 10-9-14)
The Columbus Crew today unveiled its new brand and visual identity at an exclusive event at the LC Pavilion in downtown Columbus. Evolving to Columbus Crew Soccer Club in 2015, Investor-Operator and Chairman Anthony Precourt revealed the club’s new badge at the ceremony alongside Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman, Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber and the entire Black & Gold roster, including the club’s newest addition, striker Kei Kamara. The event was hosted by MLS veteran and national soccer broadcaster Brian Dunseth, and featured a live performance from national recording group New Politics.

The new Columbus Crew SC brand will be implemented through a few select elements in 2014, including stadium signage, merchandise and digital executions. Full brand implementation will take place at the beginning of 2015.

“We are extremely proud of our new brand direction and visual identity,” said Columbus Crew SC Investor-Operator and Chairman Anthony Precourt. “Our new badge and word-mark truly reflect who we are as a club, from our origins and historical accomplishments to our connection with Columbus and our unique fan culture. It’s a timeless design and a strong statement for our brand.”

The new circular-shaped badge, which features the club’s current black and gold colors and adds white as an accent color instead of the previous grey tone, is a symbol of unity and a nod to Columbus’ German heritage by way of the German Bundesliga club crests that are predominantly circular in shape. Within the badge, the club’s full name, Columbus Crew SC, wraps around an outer ring to make a stronger connection to its hometown and further distinguish the brand as a soccer club. The inner ring mirrors the circular shape within the state flag of Ohio to emphasize Columbus as the capital city. Within the heart of the inner ring, 96 adorns the club’s original crest to reference the year the club and League were formed. That crest sits atop nine black and gold diagonal lines to distinguish the club’s history as the first member of the original 10 charter clubs that formed the League, as well as the upward trajectory of our club. The other design element within the heart is a black and gold checkerboard pattern to symbolize the club’s unique and passionate fan culture.

Complete information regarding the new brand identity – featuring the club’s brand pillars; a breakdown of the new badge; a frequently asked questions section and more – is available on the Crew’s official website.

In addition to the new badge being revealed, Mayor Coleman and Precourt announced that the club is investing $100,000 in a new authentic Columbus experience at Crew Stadium that will feature food, retail and artistic elements that reflect Columbus’ iconic hot spots such as German Village and the Short North. Details of this program and how people can contribute their ideas toward creating this experience will be released at a later date.

Precourt also announced that beginning in 2015, children living in the state of Ohio will be treated to a complimentary Crew ticket on their 11th birthday as part of a new program to grow the fan base and the club’s brand throughout the region. Details on how parents can register their child for this program will also be released later in 2014.

“What we are talking about is not just a new badge for our club,” Precourt said. “We want to show people that we are doing things differently, that we want to represent the pride of Columbus, and that we want to attract fans from throughout the region.”


1996 - 2014

Some fan made logos

Friday, October 3, 2014

Red Bulls future uncertain, Garber says they are committed

'Zero chance' Henry returns to Red Bulls; Club's owners losing interest

While Marc de Grandpre, the club’s head of commercial operations, says the team is not for sale, one source says that if a buyer approached Red Bull and offered $300 million for the Red Bulls and their stadium, the deal would get done within 48 hours.

(see full article here)

MLS commissioner Don Garber: New York Red Bulls not for sale

“I can absolutely assure you that the New York Red Bulls are not for sale,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said. “Both the owner and the management team in Austria and in New York are as committed as ever to Major League Soccer, the club and their fans.”

(see full article here)

Monday, September 29, 2014

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Soccer stadium in the works at Utah fairgrounds

( 9-13-14)

Real Salt Lake ownership is offering to build a multi-million dollar soccer stadium on the state fairgrounds in Salt Lake City that would be home to a new minor league team for the Major League Soccer franchise and become the key element in the revitalization of the aging park.

Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen has committed to paying $13-17 million for an 8,000-seat stadium where a team would begin play in 2016 in the USL Pro league, one level below Major League Soccer.

No taxpayer funds would be spent, with Real Salt Lake paying all operating costs except for when the state uses the arena for the annual state fair.

The venue would be equipped with artificial turf so it could be easily used for other soccer and sporting events and concerts to drive more traffic to a park, said Trey Fitzgerald, spokesman for Real Salt Lake. Bringing a women's professional team to play there is also a possibility, he said.

Utah State Fairpark board chairman Roger Beattie says they are excited about the proposal and hope to finalize an agreement with the team by the end of the year. The board is doing research to make sure the plan benefits the fairpark as much as Real Salt Lake, he said, while also negotiating a new lease for the land with the state that must get done.

"We're absolutely thrilled that Del Loy Hansen and Real Salt Lake has an interest of being at the fairpark," Beattie said. "This property can be one of the great crown jewels in the state of Utah."

The fairpark that has been there for 150 years but has been underutilized, underfunded and only maintained, but not improved, over the last three decades, Beattie said. A state audit released earlier this year found that the annual state fair draws fewer state residents and costs the state more that similar events in Arizona, Idaho and New Mexico.

The stadium would bring additional revenues and allow the board to reinvest in the park, Beattie said. The long-term plan is to upgrade the rodeo arena and build a small expo center, he said. No funding source or plan has been set for either of those projects.

For Real Salt Lake, the project marks another step in the franchise's development into a perennial playoff contender in Major League Soccer and a mainstay in the Utah sports community, Fitzgerald said.

The team was founded a decade ago and has played its games in the Salt Lake City suburb of Sandy at Rio Tinto Stadium since the 20,000-seat venue opened in 2008. The team received $45 million in public funds to help build the stadium, which accounted for about 38 percent of the total cost.

The minor league team would provide a way not currently available to get players who can't find the field with Real Salt Lake more regular playing time during USL's 30-game season, serving as a bridge between the team's youth academy in Arizona and the professional team, Fitzgerald said. The L.A. Galaxy is the only team in Major League Soccer with a minor league affiliate in the same city, he said, though several teams are working on copying that model.

"This team is critical to our long-term success from a player development standpoint," Fitzgerald said. "(Coach) Jeff Cassar will be able to work with his hand-picked USL coaching staff and have them run the same system on training days and on game days that we run in MLS."

The team — to be named Real Monarchs — would play 15 home games a year, with tickets costing an average of $10-$12. The plan is to play the first year at Rio Tinto Stadium and 2016 at the fairgrounds.

Hansen, who made most of his money in real estate development, became sole owner in January 2013 after being a minority for three years prior. He sees the stadium as an investment in both his soccer team as well as the community, Fitzgerald said.

"He is a builder and he likes to build things," Fitzgerald said. "That's where his sense of community opportunity and responsibility comes from."

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Red Bulls take the 2014 MLS Super Cup

Red Bulls marvel at "engaged, unstoppable" Henry vs. SKC

(by Franco Panizo 9-8-14)

When Thierry Henry is engaged, he is simply overpowering.

That was a refrain that was reiterated more than once inside the New York Red Bulls’ locker room following a 2-1 win over Sporting Kansas City that put them back in a playoff position on Saturday.

It was not just the sizzling second-half goal Henry scored that was the difference in the match, but also his determined demeanor from the opening whistle.

Stationed in a new role out on the left side of the midfield, the 37-year-old Henry demonstrated from the opening whistle a fiery passion that lasted even after the final whistle at Red Bull Arena.

New York’s captain is no stranger to showing his trademark intensity and fierce competitiveness, but this was a bit different.

More of it was channeled towards beating the opposition. More of it was used to encourage teammates rather than scowl at them for mistakes (though, naturally, there was some of that). More of it was used to hustle and defend, things that even the technically-gifted Henry has been criticized quite a bit for since joining the Red Bulls.

“When Thierry’s pissed off in the right way, when he’s engaged and when he’s taking it upon himself to be mentally into it right from the beginning, he’s unstoppable,” said midfielder Dax McCarty.

 “You can’t stop a player like that when he wants to play at his absolute best. I think he always wants to play at his best, but sometimes his frustration comes out in the wrong ways.

“I thought tonight he was unbelievable defensively, playing more tilted to the left. That kid Igor Juliao likes to bomb up and down the right wing and for the most part Thierry was right there with him and he was still making things happen going forward. When he’s like that, there’s not one person in this league that can stop him.”

Henry having this engaged approached could simply be chalked up to how important the match was for the Red Bulls, who started the night on the outside of the Eastern Conference’s playoff picture. But there was more behind it than that.

After seeing his club be frustratingly inconsistent all season, Henry approached head coach Mike Petke this week in training to have a conversation. The specifics of that talk were not made public by either Petke or Henry following Saturday’s triumph, but what came of it were positives that appear to resemble the ones that emanated from their long meeting last year following a heated confrontation in training.

“Thierry, true to who he is as a person and a captain, he sought me out and we had a long conversation,” said Petke. “Together we rededicated ourselves and tried to figure some stuff out. I told him, ‘Before, you showed what a captain is by coming to me earlier in the week and speaking about some things. Now, you’re going to show what a captain is on the field,’ and he did.”

“He led the team, he put tireless work in and he capped it off with a Goal of the Year nomination, for sure.”

The tally came in the 52nd minute. Henry received a pass from Lloyd Sam, burst by his mark and hit a screamer into the far top corner. Dom Dwyer responded two minutes later with a nice strike of his own, but the Red Bulls did enough to ensure that Henry’s world-class finish would stand as the winner.

Henry came off in the 89th minute, and while he could have been gassed given the hardworking shift he put in, he still had enough in the tank to berate fourth official Jose Carlos Rivero before and after the final whistle.

It was just another example of the kind of ambition that may well have rubbed off on the rest of Red Bulls in a week in which they absolutely needed an injection of enthusiasm.

“When he wants something, that’s when you start to see that everybody gets behind him and, this week, that’s what it’s all about,” said goalkeeper Luis Robles. “He was engaged, he was encouraging people, and he was just saying that it’s time to stop all the talk, it’s time to stop the excuses and let’s just go, let’s do it together.

“When he’s up in the front leading, no one, no one is going to slack off and that’s exactly what this week was about.”

More discussion, no decision on Fairpark soccer stadium

(by Emilee Eagar 9-10-14)

The owner of Real Salt Lake approached the Utah State Fairpark Board on Wednesday with more information about building a new soccer stadium on the fairgrounds, but no decision was made.

"We're ready to move virtually immediately," Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen told the board, adding that he would pay all construction costs, estimated at up to $18 million.

"This will be a straight-up commercial deal, in our mind, that benefits the park," he told the board. "We want to give back."

Hansen said the 8,000-seat stadium would house the Real Monarchs, a United Soccer League team for players ages 17-23 who need more playing time and training before advancing to the professional level.

Hansen said he also hopes to create a community gathering place and help revitalize the Fairpark.
Chairman Roger Beattie said the board has an agreement to negotiate and work with Real Salt Lake to ultimately come an official agreement. The discussions are exciting for soccer fans in the state, Beattie said, but he compared it to running in the dark.

"It's a lot of fun until you hit a tree," he said. "There's a lot of work that has to be done behind the scenes right now, a lot of analysis. But at this juncture, everybody is excited to proceed and hoping that everything will work out well."

Both Hansen and Beattie said they hope to have a plan in place by the end of the year.

"Our timeline has to do mostly with Real Salt Lake and the need to start to get into the ground so the stadium would be ready in 2016," Beattie said. "I would hope that certainly by the conclusion of this year this is all finalized and everything is signed, sealed, delivered, and we're waiting to break ground."

Hansen said another factor in the timeline is what lawmakers decide to do with the fairgrounds and if the Utah State Fair should stay at it's current location.

"They have to extend the lease to the (Fairpark board) or we wouldn't have anything that we could count on to lease against," Hansen said.

Beattie said the board will meet again at the end of the week and once a month when the fair ends. He said there will be "a significant number of meetings" before anything is formally decided.

Ultimately, Beattie said the board wants to see the community re-energize, keep up the history of the park, while improving it through a relationship with Real Salt Lake.

If the board decides the stadium brings that to the park, it would move forward with the project, Beattie said.

"The board, at this point, does not see why we cannot come to an agreement that would be mutually beneficial for everyone involved," he said.

In his presentation, Hansen said the direct estimated revenues of the stadium would be between $575,000 and $875,000. Real Salt Lake would pay a ground lease of $10,000, and the rest of the money would be generated from parking and concert event revenue.

Hansen said Real Salt Lake and the Fairpark would split parking revenue, except during the Utah State Fair, when all money would go to the Fairpark, as well as full use of the stadium.

"Basically, we'll build a stadium and essentially give it to the ground," he said.

Hansen said Real Salt Lake will use the stadium for the next 40 years, with the possibility of a 10-year extension, and then the stadium would belong to the Fairpark.

Hansen said he hopes to build a youth-oriented and energetic fan base with the presence of the Real Monarchs.

The Monarchs will start playing next year at Rio Tinto Stadium stadium in Sandy, with hopes of moving to the fairgrounds in 2016.

"These players will be exciting to watch," Hansen said. "And that's what this is about, is building aspirational soccer for the youth."

Other plans for the stadium would be a women's pro team, an amateur men's team, rugby and lacrosse leagues and youth camps.

Beattie said the stadium would be built straight out from the grandstand toward the road. It wouldn't negatively impact any of the 13 historical buildings on site, but it would affect about 400 parking spaces, he said.

Beattie said with TRAX and parking across from the fairgrounds, he's not worried about parking. If there isn't enough, they could consider building a parking structure.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

2014 Super Cup - leg 1

Match Recap: Sporting Kansas City 1, New York Red Bulls 1

(match highlights link ^)

(by Steve Brisendine 5-27-14)

Early on, it looked as though Thierry Henry's 100th start for the New York Red Bulls would be the beginning of a forgettable – even regrettable – night for his club.

But after withstanding an early offensive flurry from Sporting Kansas City and falling behind even before the 10-minute mark, both Henry and the Red Bulls made something decent of Tuesday night's match. Henry assisted on Bradley Wright-Phillips' league-leading 11th goal early in the second half, and the Red Bulls left Sporting Park with a 1-1 draw.

It broke a three-match losing streak for New York (3-5-6), while Sporting – who led after nine minutes on Toni Dovale's first MLS goal – are 5-4-4 and on a four-match winless streak after their second straight draw.

They did get Aurelien Collin back from a two-match absence due to a hamstring strain, though, and the big central defender's aerial presence and open-field tackling ability likely helped Sporting take the point.

Sporting attacked out of the gate and could have been up 3-0 after five minutes but for two big defensive plays and a blast that just missed by inches.

Igor Juliao made a long run into the box and chipped goalkeeper Luis Robles in the second minute, only to see Chris Duvall clear the ball off the line. Ibrahim Sekagya made another goalmouth clearance of Sal Zizzo's header in the fifth minute, and Benny Feilhaber drove a close-range free kick off the underside of the crossbar later in the fifth.

Dovale wouldn't be denied on Sporting's next big chance, though. He took Feilhaber's through ball in traffic, worked his way to a spot just outside the top of the penalty arc and unleashed a left-footed shot that curled into the lower left corner of Luis Robles' goal.

After that, though, Sporting wouldn't get off another shot on goal until Robles saved Dovale's blast toward the upper right corner in the 79th. That was also the last save Robles had to make, as Kansas City didn't put another attempt on frame.

The confetti cannons did go off in the 25th minute, but prematurely; Kevin Ellis put the ball in the net from close range but was whistled for a foul on Robles that created the opportunity.

Five minutes after the break, it was even. Wright-Phillips made a run to take Henry's through ball, drove on goal and put his shot just under 'keeper Eric Kronberg.

Kronberg came up big on a pair of challenging shots not long after the hour mark to keep things even, though. He dived to his right to parry Peguy Luyindula's low drive out for a corner in the 66th minute, then controlled Henry's dipping try from outside the area after the restart.

Monday, August 18, 2014

MLS vs the major leagues: can soccer compete when it comes to big business?

Even compared against the American sports behemoths and the English Premier League, MLS is in relatively good health
(by Elliott Turner 3-12-14)
As the 2014 Major League Soccer season starts up, the league will soon enter into collective bargaining negotiations with the players’ union. It’s no secret that the last round was particularly nasty, and almost ended in a strike. Negotiations with the referees have already led to a lockout. What is a big secret, though, is the actual state of MLS.

The answer, of course, depends not on what you ask but on what comparisons you make.

Recently, MLS commissioner Don Garber has issued some cryptic remarks about deficits. While a few teams are profitable, the league still burns cash. It also had to take over Chivas USA, buying out Jorge Vergara’s stake.

Still, a decade of expansion and eager new owners elsewhere seems to indicate positive momentum. Club owners have also been willing to spend money on star players, as evidenced by the payment of transfer fees for players like Jermain Defoe and Clint Dempsey and the steady expansion of the designated player (DP) rule. The league has also signed a sizeable TV deal.

The first temptation is to compare the league to other North American professional sports, like the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL. Of course, any comparison has to keep in mind that MLS is only 19 years old, a baby compared to the NFL (94), NHL (97) and MLB (145), and still many decades younger than the NBA, which was formed 68 years ago. Also, MLS has only 19 teams, compared to 32 NFL teams, 30 MLB, 30 NBA and 30 NHL.

So, MLS has two thirds as many teams as other North American leagues and either one third or one seventh of the history. One would thus expect its business fundamentals – profits, revenue, wages, TV deals – to lag behind.

Let’s first look at professional sports’ cashcow: television. The NFL’s most recent TV deal was for $27bn. The MLB gets $800m annually; the NBA about $930m. The NHL looks much weaker, at about $200m annually. However, the NHL also has a lucrative Canadian TV deal, worth about $400m a year. So how does MLS stack up?

The league’s new TV deal is for $70m a year. That’s about a ninth of the NHL’s combined TV revenue, an 11th of the MLB deal, a 13th of the NBA deal … and way behind the NFL. So if the MLS has two thirds of the teams and about a fifth of the history, why such a big disparity?

The answer lies in the other major difference between the MLS and NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL.

Those leagues largely have monopolies on talent. Yes, some good baseball players play in Japan and Cuba, but most make their way to MLB. European basketball has grown by leaps and bounds, but the NBA is the destination point. Russia has a good hockey league but the best Russian player, Alex Ovechkin, laces up his skates for Washington, not St Petersburg.

In comparison, MLS has to compete with the leagues of Europe and the riches of Mexico.
MLS has a pretty good average attendance – higher than the NHL and NBA but less than MLB and way less than the NFL. MLS also has a good share of Hispanics compared to other sports, even if the average income for MLS fans is pretty low.

In terms of player wages, MLS salaries are readily available – the union publishes them every year for every player. The average salary is $160,000 and the median salary is $100,000. By comparison, the median income for an American household in 2012 was $51,000.

Still, there are two sad facts. Rookies only earn about $35,000 a year. And, because of MLS’s unique wage structure – a salary cap but three exceptions for “designated players” – there is staggering inequality. The league’s top 28 players earn more than 33% of the wages.

By comparison to other North American sports, MLS’s average and median salaries are a pittance. On average, NFL players earn $1.9m a year, NHL players $2.4m, MLB players $3.2m and NBA players $5.15m. So MLS players earn about an 11th of their counterparts in NFL and one 32nd of those in NBA. The NFL’s minimum base salary for a rookie is $375,000. That’s 10 times an MLS rookie’s average.

So, MLS is at the bottom of the totem pole in North America in terms of TV revenue and wages, though it has good gates. That isn’t surprising, given the time it’s been operating, its lower number of teams, and its international competitive pressure.

Now we turn to the interesting part: the Eurosnobs who prefer to compare the league to, say, the English Premier League rather than other North American sports leagues.
The EPL has an $80m-a year-TV deal with NBC for North America. MLS is only $10m a year behind that.

However, when you compare the top earners in the EPL with the DPs of MLS, things don’t stack up. When you look at average wages, it’s even worse. The average EPL player earns £22,000 ($36,700) a week. In five weeks, an average EPL player earns more than an average MLS player in an entire year.

But here’s the interesting part about comparisons to European leagues: by North American standards, they’re not particularly good businesses. Yes, EPL clubs attract foreign owners, but Uefa has adopted Financial Fair Play regulations because deficit-spending is rampant.
The EPL and other leagues sell shirts the world over and sign big TV deals, but largely operate close to the break-even point or in the red. Thus many top leagues, which operate without a salary cap, can sign top players because they spend more than they earn. That’s not a recipe for sustainability.
Thus, Garber’s remarks about deficits, the general view is that MLS is improving as compared to itself. It’s in good shape (especially when you compare it to, say, the old North American Soccer League). It’s expanding, TV revenue is going up and so have players’ wages. Compared to NFL or MLB in year 20, MLS would probably stack up nicely.

The problem comes when you look across the Atlantic, at the league’s free-spending competitors. If Financial Fair Play falls flat and deficit-spending continues, in a decade or so the steady growth of MLS will probably put it in a realm between the “selling leagues” like Argentina and Brazil and the “destination leagues” like Spain or England. That’s not super exciting.

But it’s also not a bad place to be. Think of it as a Dutch Eredivisie Light.


Friday, August 15, 2014

RSL and Club Tijuana play to 1-1 draw in friendly

(by Connor Johnson 8-12-14)
An army of 13,222 strong braved the elements at Rio Tinto Stadium, including rain and lightning, to watch Real Salt Lake draw versus Club Tijuana of Liga MX in an international friendly 1-1.
After the first 20 minutes of action were in the books, it hardly seemed like a friendly in Sandy.

Three players were shown yellow cards in those first 20 minutes, with Elio Castro’s 11th-minute foul on Luke Mulholland leaving the Englishman face down on the pitch writhing in pain.

“These games kind of seem to end up this way all the time,” said RSL coach Jeff Cassar, who told reporters that Tijuana coach Cesar Farias apologized after the Mulholland challenge. “Their coach was extremely classy. He came up to me at the half and apologized for that. He had a young team out there, and they made a poor choice.”

Luis Gil gave RSL its first attempt on goal in the 25th minute with a booming shot from distance. Gil, playing in Javier Morales’ spot at the top of the diamond, took a few dribbles before picking up his head and firing a 30-yard attempt that was deflected away by Tijuana keeper Gibran Lajud.

Sebastian Velasquez also had his shot on goal deflected away by Lajud in the 37th minute. Velasquez took a beautiful ball by Mulholland into the box, but Velasquez’ left-footed attempt was thwarted by the Xolos keeper.

RSL finished the half with five shots on goal, while Tijuana had just two.

Minutes into the second half, the Xolos had several attempts to find the first goal of the match.

The first opportunity came in the 50th minute on a Tijuana breakaway, but a sliding Carlos Salcedo was able to deflect the ball out of harms way. Two minutes later it was Salcedo again, this time deflecting Edgar Villegas’ shot on goal over the goal post. On the ensuing corner kick, Oliver Ortiz’ diving header sailed wide left of the goal.

Gil had another opportunity to find the back of the net, this time standing over an RSL free kick on the corner of the box. Gil elected to go over the wall with his shot, which had to be deflected away up and over the cross bar by the Tijuana ’keeper.

In the 75th minute, it was Gil again who had an attempt on goal, but his skill shot rattled the crossbar. It was agonizingly close for RSL, and was accompanied by the collective groan of those in attendance at Rio Tinto Stadium.

“Luis went 90 minutes and looked sharp all the way to the end, which is really positive,” said Cassar. “He had a lot of great ideas attacking-wise, but was committed on the defensive end as well.”

Just minutes later, the Xolos struck with the lone goal of the match in the 77th minute.

Edgar Villegas found some open space on the right side of the box, and his left-footed beauty sailed easily past a standing Lalo Fernandez into the upper corner side netting.

When it all seemed like it was said and done, RSL struck. Gil, who had been stellar through the entire match, finally had his goal with a tipped pass to himself that the young midfielder easily buried into the back of the net.

“I felt it coming, and that’s why I kept going at it,” said Gil after the match. “All I was thinking was just hit it, and get some contact on it. You’ve just got to take chances.”

Friday, August 8, 2014

Donovan to retire at end of season

LA Galaxy's Landon Donovan explains decision to retire: "There was not that same passion"
(by Scott French 8-7-14)
Ultimately, it came down to passion – or lack thereof.
Landon Donovan, in announcing that he will hang up his boots at season’s end, acknowledged that he doesn’t have the burning desire that once fueled him, and his "gut" told him it was time to walk away.

He called it "bittersweet" and admitted to "some sadness" but said the time was right to end his playing career.

"Last year I took a long break from the game, and that was really the first time that [retirement] was a real possibility," Donovan said during a StubHub Center news conference Thursday afternoon. "I wanted to get away and take some time to see how it would feel after getting away for awhile. I came back rejuvenated. I came back refreshed. But after a few months even of last season, I started to have some feelings of, you know, it doesn’t feel the same, there’s not that same passion, that same energy.

"So I kept going, and there was some ebbs and flows and there were some good times through the summer – I felt great, I was playing well, we had the [CONCACAF] Gold Cup, it was exciting – and then as this year started, I was enjoying myself. I was, I think, playing well, doing well, and in the last few weeks I started thinking a lot about it again. I was talking to my family quite a bit about it, and my gut just told me it was right and it was the right time."

Donovan said he made the decision before the Galaxy’s 3-0 romp at Seattle on July 28, let club brass and head coach/general manager Bruce Arena know, told his closest friends among teammates and then informed the entire team before Thursday’s training session.

It’s a decision he said that has heightened his desire to win a sixth MLS Cup championship – he’s captured three with the Galaxy and two with the San Jose Earthquakes – and served to eliminate an enormous amount of stress.

"The way I’ve felt and played and enjoyed myself [since making the decision] is reflective somewhat of a weight being lifted off my shoulders," he said. "Now it’s time to enjoy the rest of the season, and there would be no better way than to go out a champion, so that’s where my focus and my goals are now."

Donovan, who turned pro as a 16-year-old and has been the face of American soccer more or less since winning the Golden Ball as MVP of the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 1999, said the "obligation" wore on him as time went on.

"For the last few years, I haven’t had the same passion that I had previously in my career, and to some extent I had felt obligated to keep playing," he said. "And so when that obligation goes away, I realized it was just relieving, and I could just enjoy it as a player again, almost as a kid again. ... It’s allowed me now to really enjoy myself, and that’s what I want. I’d rather have three or four months of really playing well and enjoying myself than a couple years of mediocrity and not being passionate about it."

The loss of that passion, Donovan said, is "probably a natural evolution."

"I’m sure anybody who’s in one industry for that long has those feelings at times, so I think there’s sometimes the sense of obligation in people’s lives – there’s a sense that you have to do something," he said. "I’ve never lived my life that way, and I’m sure it’s not always popular with everybody, but at the end of the day, I have to live the life I want to live. And I think that’s an important thing to go by.

"I think it’s very important in life to make decisions that are best for you, best for your friends and family and, most importantly, best for your happiness. And so, at this point, this is the decision that is best for all those things, and that’s why I’m making it."

Donovan leaves a rich legacy. He’s in his 14th MLS season, to go with stints in Germany (two brief tenures with Bayer Leverkusen, the first as a teen, and a short-term loan in 2009 with Bayern Munich) and England (short-term loans in 2010 and 2012 with Everton), and is No. 1 on the league’s all-time goals list (138) and No. 2 for assists (with 124, 11 behind Steve Ralston). He could make his 300th regular-season start in LA’s game Friday night against San Jose.

He’s also the US national team’s all-time leader in goals (57) and assists (58), in 155 international appearances, and starred in three World Cups. He’s the American soccer player nearly everyone overseas can identify.

None of that matters much to him, in terms of legacy, he said.

"I hope that my teammates will say I was a good teammate," he said. "I hope that my coaches will say they enjoyed working with me and having me on their team. I hope that the fans enjoyed watching and could see how much I gave to this sport over the last 16 years.

"And that’s really it. Because at the end of the day the goals and the assists and the accolades and that stuff, in the end they don’t mean a whole lot to me. But the relationships matter. ... I think my teammates have all enjoyed being around me and playing with me, and I think they know how much I’ve dedicated to this whole thing."

His announcement comes on the heels of his MVP performance in Wednesday’s MLS All-Star Game in Portland, Ore., where he scored the winning goal in a 2-1 victory over Bayern Munich.

"All I could think [in Portland] was ‘if everybody only knew what was going on,’" he said. "It was perfect."

He’s seen MLS and soccer in America grow immensely during his time in the game, and he has played a massive role in prodding that growth.

"I played here the majority of my career for two reasons," he said. "One was I wanted to be happy, and my happiness always lied in being here, close to my family. And two was I wanted to help grow the league. I always thought it was much more important to be here doing that than to go be lost in the shuffle somewhere in Europe or elsewhere. That for me was the perfect fit.

"It doesn’t mean it’s everyone’s choice, and that’s OK. But for me that was the perfect fit, and I was fortunate that I had people that wanted to come along on that journey with me."

Donovan said he plans to spend more time with friends and family, do some traveling, and that he would like to work with children.

"I absolutely want to work with kids," he said. "I spoke to [Galaxy president Chris] Klein extensively about working with the Academy, and that for me would be a really good way to come full circle. So I fully expect that will happen at some point."

RSL to make formal minor league stadium proposal to state fairpark officials

(by Amy Joi O'Donoghue 7-31-14)

Real Salt Lake is expected to present Utah State Fairpark officials with a proposal Friday to fully pay for up to an 8,000-seat soccer stadium at the central Salt Lake location, revitalizing the aging grounds and surrounding neighborhood.

"This would be an anchor tenant that would have new fans, new people coming to the fairgrounds. The community is all over this," said Michael Steele, executive director of the Utah State Fairpark. "I believe it would be a perfect fit."

Steele said consultants priced the construction of a sports stadium where the existing grandstand is located at somewhere between $10 million and $12 million.

"The devil is in the details," he said.

Officials confirmed the proposal Thursday to KSL, with a formal announcement slated to be made Friday, according to Steele and Trey Fitz-Gerald, Real Salt Lake spokesman.

On Thursday, during a meeting and tour of the state fairgrounds by members of the Legislature\'s Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environmental Quality Appropriations Subcommittee, Steele said he had a breakfast meeting with Real Salt Lake officials in which the nexus of the Fairpark and a soccer future were discussed in exciting scenarios.

"(Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen) feels this area is underserved," Steele told the committee.
Steele said he believes the draw of Real Salt Lake â"” a sold-out game on a Wednesday night just this week that was televised â"” can spill over to the Fairpark, where the facility could be home to a minor league team, a women\'s team, a Hispanic soccer league, lacrosse and more.

The idea of a public-private venture soccer stadium involving Real Salt Lake and the Utah State Fairpark was revealed last week in a proposal that teemed with excitement but few details.
A multiphase study by architectural firm CRSA noted that a sports complex would be part of a bevy of improvements estimated at $47 million that are necessary for the Fairpark to be financially viable.
The stadium, combined with a completed rodeo grounds and convention center, would help turn the Fairpark into a 365-day-a-year venue rather than the sporadic offering of events that occur now.

Last year, RSL made a $7.5 million donation for Salt Lake City\'s construction of the Regional Athletic Complex, which includes 16 multipurpose fields and a stadium with 1,500 permanent seats surrounding an artificial turf field.

The $22.8 million facility will host regional tournaments and local sporting events starting at the end of summer in 2015.

Lawmakers have been struggling with the challenge of what to do with the state Fairpark and the notion of if the state fair should continue to be held at its current location.

The problem reached a new urgency in the last legislative session because of condemned barns that threatened to cancel the more than 100-year-old tradition.

Lawmakers came up with $3.5 million to cover renovation of the buildings and to carry the fair forward into this next staging Sept. 4-14.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Utah State Fairpark and Real Salt Lake team up on proposed soccer stadium

(by Morgan Jacobson 7-22-14)

Utah State Fairpark officials are considering a proposal from Real Salt Lake to build a minor league soccer stadium on the fairgrounds.

A new convention building and upgraded rodeo grounds would also be considered alongside the stadium.

CRSA, a planning firm commissioned by the state Legislature, completed a study earlier this month that examined the state's options for the Fairpark. The options ranged from spending $33 million on necessary improvements to the facility to spending $160 million in replacing the Fairpark in kind.

Building a convention center, rodeo grounds and a multisport facility could cost up to $47 million in addition to the $33 million needed for repairs, according to CRSA. But RSL has proposed to invest in a stadium that would host its minor league affiliate in the USL Professional Division, through a public-private partnership with the Utah State Fairpark Corp., according to Fairpark Executive Director Michael Steele.

The stadium would seat up to 6,000 spectators and host as many as 15 home games per year. RSL hopes to construct the field with artificial turf, which would allow players to use the facility throughout the year. The stadium would be built on what is now the parking lot east of the rodeo grounds.

Steele said he hopes the area's culturally diverse citizenship would welcome the stadium because of widespread appreciation for the sport.

"It's a very diverse population here, and they really support the fair and the Fairpark. We thought it might be something that the community might embrace," Steele said. "So far, it's been positive."
RSL President Bill Manning said the facility could make the Fairpark area a destination throughout the year and provide a favorable venue for the minor league team.

"It would bring a lot of people through there on non-state fair days," Manning said. "Our fan base that we've built here is really into the team, and I think the next step for us is developing this next generation of players. I actually like the fact that it's close to downtown. … It obviously has a very strong history there. This is kind of the next generation of what the state Fairpark could be, and we'd be excited to be a part of that."

Manning and RSL owner Dell Loy Hansen plan to meet with Fairpark officials next week to discuss advancing the proposal.

Last year, RSL made a $7.5 million donation in the building of Salt Lake City's Regional Athletic Complex, which will feature 16 multipurpose fields and a stadium with 1,500 permanent seats surrounding an artificial turf field.

The $22.8 million facility will host regional tournaments and local sporting events starting at the end of summer next year, according to Salt Lake City spokesman Art Raymond.

The proposed stadium at the Fairpark could potentially work in concert with the Regional Athletic Complex in garnering participation in the sport and support for RSL, Raymond said.

"We think that RSL's proposal with the Fairpark complements what we're doing at the Regional Athletic Complex very nicely," he said. "I think we have a very soccer-friendly city."

The proposal for additions to the Fairpark would include finishing the rodeo grounds, which have been under construction since the 1980s, Steele said. The 50,000-square-foot convention center would be built on the far east side of the property. Historical buildings would likely remain in place and be brought up to usable standards, he said.

For now, the proposal remains "very fluid," Steele said.

Roger Beattie, chairman of the Fairpark board of directors, says he hopes the state will realize the worth of such investments.

"It is our position that investing in the Fairpark is the most economically and culturally prudent approach to ensure the Utah State Fair and the Fairpark continue to contribute to the community for future generations," Beattie said. "Construction of an exposition building, improving and expanding the rodeo grounds, and adding a multiuse sports stadium to the Fairpark would be strong assets to the Fairpark's success."