As Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen took the stage to announce that he was launching a National Women’s Soccer League team in Utah, the club’s season-ticket interest form went live on the RSL website.
At that point the team didn’t have a name, coach or any players. Yet in the two and a half weeks between the announcement and Dec. 4, when season tickets went on sale for RSL season-ticket holders, about 1,000 people had filled out the form, according to RSL Chief Business Officer Andy Carroll. Utah Royals FC, as the NWSL team has since been named, has sold a little over 2,000 season tickets since.
“The acceptance in the community has been exceptional,” Carroll said, “and we expected that actually.”
In the two weeks following the Nov. 16 announcement, the pieces started to fit together to form a more complete picture of the new NWSL team. Four days after the official announcement, the league said the Kansas City franchise would cease operations and the rights to its players would be assigned to Utah.
A week later, the Royals hired former Seattle Reign FC coach Laura Harvey. They followed that up with the release of the team name and logo four days later.
Despite the uncertainty that came with an expedited team-launching process, roughly 1,000 RSL season-ticket holders bought Royals season tickets the week the team began selling them. The next week Utah made tickets available to the general public, and the Royals added 1,000 more season-ticket holders as they began to make their way down the list of people who had filled out interest forms.
“We’re still working on the list of people that showed interest,” Carroll said. “There’s lots of other avenues that we have, but that’s what we’ve essentially been mining since the 4th.”
Hansen said he expects Royals games to average at least 12,000 in fans per home game next season, and to hit that number, Caroll said, the team is aiming for 5,000 season ticket holders by the beginning of the season. He predicts they will reach 3,000 by Jan. 1.
Those attendance figures are ambitious when compared to the rest of the league. The NWSL averaged 5,061 per game last season. But the rate at which Utah soccer fans are already buying season tickets bodes well for the new club.
In an informal Twitter survey conducted by the Tribune, low cost was a common reason responders had bought season tickets.
Royals season tickets for the 12-game home schedule range between $120 and $300.
Season tickets in the the premium seating areas — including the Zions Bank Club Seats, Interform Cub and Audi Executive Club — cost anywhere between $600 to $1,500. Added perks, including food, come with those selections.
“There were a number of factors,” Carroll said of setting ticket prices, “but certainly making it accessible to a broad part of the community was important to us and that was one of our key criteria.”
Many new Royals fans also mentioned a desire to support women’s soccer and feel rooted in that community.
“It’s going to be amazing to watch some amazing female athletes right in our home, instead of waiting for a chance for the [U.S. Women’s national team] to come to town,” @hikingnugg tweeted. “It’s a great opportunity for the young women in this state and I can’t wait to share this exciting experience with my nieces.”
Those who haven’t purchased season tickets often cited the distance from their homes to Sandy and uncertainly about the schedule.
The Utah Royals are scheduled to play their home-opener on April 14. The remainder of the schedule has yet to be announced by the NWSL.