Utah Royals FC midfielder Katie Bowen’s ears perked up when she heard her team mentioned in the Real Salt Lake team store.
“Where is the Utah Royals stuff?” the customer asked.
Bowen couldn’t have been there for more than 20 minutes, waiting to put in orders for her family, but in that time span she counted four separate customers buying Royals gear.
“I’m a bit foreign to that,” she said, “So it’s awesome to see in the community how much they back us.”
So she wasn’t particularly surprised when she heard that they had sold out the stadium for their home opener Saturday. It was something Dell Loy Hansen had promised since procuring the team in November. As of Friday morning, RSL had sold about 18,500 tickets and only club seats and standing room only tickets remained available.
“Dell Loy told me it would sell out,” said Royals coach Laura Harvey, “so all the way along, I’ve been like, ‘We’re going to sell out.’ I think he’s a man of his word. He knows the community, he knows what this club can do.”
Other members of the team were more cautious about getting their hopes up at first. As FC Kansas City players last year, the core of this Royals team only saw a total attendance of 21,456 spread over 12 home matches. When they arrived in Utah, Hansen promised to fill a stadium almost that same size in one game.
Bowen became a believer the first time she saw the Royals’ facilities. For Canada international Desiree Scott, it just took one visit to a Real Salt Lake game.
“I was hopeful, wasn’t sure it would happen,” Scott said of selling out, “but the response even when we came to the men’s game, the people in the stands just being like, ‘We’re so happy to have you here.‘”
The interest was so high that an aggressive advertising campaign was enough to fill the venue essentially without offering discounted tickets.
Triple-platinum recording artist Rachael Platten, who will sing the national anthem and perform after the game, added an extra draw. (The stage required for that concert also knocks out about 1,200 seats, as it has for similar events tied to Real Salt Lake matches.) But over 5,000 of the tickets sold for Saturday were to season ticket holders, per Royals communications.
“I’m definitely a girl who picks up on vibes and energy,” Scott said playing in a sold-out stadium. “And you tackle that little bit harder, you run that little bit faster, they just give you that little bit of boost. And you want to play hard for your family, for your friends, and for the fans who have come out to support.”
Of all the perks Hansen has provided for his players since acquiring the Royals, Hansen said he is most proud of flying the players’ friends and family into Utah from all over the world for Saturday’s match. That included the family of Bowen, a New Zealand international.
“That is absolutely unheard of,” Bowen said after training Friday. “It’s one of the most generous acts I’ve ever seen. ... Hopefully my family will make it because I really want them to meet [Hansen]”
The flight Bowen’s family was scheduled to take from Sydney to San Francisco had to turn around for a sick passenger, but she hopes they will at least make part of the game, or even just the postgame dinner for all the players’ families.
In all, the Royals players invited about 160 family members and friends to the inaugural home game.
CHICAGO RED STARS AT UTAH ROYALS
When • Saturday, 1:30 p.m., Rio Tinto Stadium
TV • Lifetime