The Utah Royals FC are heading into the 2024 NWSL regular season with a roar. The club revealed plans for a multi-million dollar NWSL-specific training site in Herriman, Utah. The 12,260-square-foot facility is set to open by the start of the 2024 regular season.
The official groundbreaking at the training site means all five of the Utah Soccer brands will call the Zions Bank Real Academy their home base. The Utah Royals were previously part of NWSL, but are now re-entering the league after the previous roster was re-located as former ownership sought out new buyers for the the Utah teams, with a contingency in place for the Royals to return to the league as early as 2023.
Co-owners David Blitzer and Ryan Smith are investing in women’s sports at a time when expansion bids are climbing, and Smith re-emphasized that the franchise is remodeling the new facility “from scratch” as the club looks ahead to next year.
“This is the third practice facility that I’ve been involved with, actually the fourth,” Smith told media on Thursday.
“This is what fans don’t understand is these are really the labs. You think it’s the arena, the stadium, but all the day-to-day work happens here. So, I think, what’s most exciting — and the best recruiting you get — is when the people are already here, and they’re telling their friends and other players how amazing it is.
The training site already includes a 42-acre campus with five natural-grass outdoor fields, two full-size indoor fields, and the Zions Bank Stadium — a 5,000-seat capacity facility. The blueprints for the Royals training complex include a player’s lounge, training and weight rooms, a new locker room, and a hydrotherapy room with hot and cold tubs along with a sauna. Setting themselves apart from other NWSL franchises will be the addition of a “mother’s care room” to function as a space for childcare and nursing mothers.
Another stage for players
The new facility is already being touted as a key piece for potential player recruitment as the organization looks ahead to the expansion draft on Dec. 15.
“Players are going to want to come here, because I’m hoping that we unlock the next level to their game,” said head coach Amy Rodriguez.
“Someone who gets to come and train here is ultimately going to become better. They’re going to develop more. They’re going to have a great soccer experience and that’s exactly what we want to do here about the Royals.
Rodriguez, a former NWSL player and World Cup champion, played with three different NWSL clubs before stepping away to become a coach at her Alma mater USC, and believes the new facility will aid future Royals players in their professional and personal lives.
“I’ll just say that at the core of who I am, as a former player in this league, I want to do right by the players and I want to provide them the greatest sports and life experience that they can achieve. I think that we have that here in Salt Lake City and with this new training center, the possibilities and the potential of our players is going to be endless.”
While the NWSL semifinals are set to begin on Nov. 5, the offseason is in full swing for other NWSL clubs. The Royals hold the first pick in the upcoming NWSL Entry Draft and have the first pick in the third round of the event. The team will pick second in the double expansion draft, and have priority in the Discovery Order ranking and priority in the Waiver Wire order.