Herriman • Real Salt Lake and Real Monarchs players trickled out of the players’ entrance onto the brand new turf field Tuesday for their first full combined training session after reporting Monday for physicals and fitness.
Rows of bright lights shone down from the soaring ceiling of a building that is — per RSL communications — the largest freestanding structure in North America.
“It’s a Premier League-standard facility,” midfielder Albert Rusnák said. “There are not many in MLS like this, so hopefully this will be a standard for this league as well.”
RSL opened preseason camp this week at the $78 million Zions Bank Real Academy (yes, that figure does keep growing). RSL’s indoor facility has given the team the chance to train in Utah for the first leg of preseason and served as a selling point for players the team has successfully wooed in the transfer window.
“Preseason, it’s long,” veteran Kyle Beckerman said, “so if you can get a week at home and still get in the work that you need to put in, it just makes everybody a little bit more comfortable, and it also helps to train in altitude.”
In past years, RSL has spent almost the entire preseason in California or Arizona. This year, RSL will spend the second leg in Tucson, Ariz., and the third in Orlando, Fla.
The temperature on Tuesday afternoon hovered around the high 30s, but inside the expansive warehouse-like facility, players practiced comfortably in shorts on one of the two regulation-sized fields.
“My first reaction was like, ‘Woah,’” said defender Demar Phillips, who took his first spin on the practice field about three weeks ago. “This is what football is about. You get facilities like this and you just want to get motivated to come to work every day.”
The Herriman facilities have also garnered plenty of praise from new Utah Royals players, who cited it as a sign of owner Dell Loy Hansen’s commitment to the club. But it wasn’t only NWSL players that it helped lure to Utah.
Defender Adam Henley, two weeks ago, described a conversation he had with general manager Craig Waibel and technical director Dane Murphy that made him want to leave England’s Blackburn Rovers for Utah.
“Obviously with the new facilities it’s there for everyone to see how serious the club together is willing to make strides forward,” Henley said at his introductory press conference.
Tucked away in Herriman, RSL’s new practice facilities are far removed from Salt Lake City (“I didn’t know we were still in Utah,” Beckerman joked,) but about a 12-mile drive from Rio Tinto Stadium.
RSL also has the option to prepare on the indoor fields ahead of matches on artificial turf fields. The turf, while not as good a surface as grass, received positive reviews from players. Once the weather improves, RSL will move outside to the facility’s grass fields.
As training wrapped up Tuesday, players stretched on the field before disappearing into the players’ section of the building, which houses numerous locker rooms, a weight room and a training room.
“We’re in the future I think,” said Beckerman, who remembers playing in baseball outfields in the early days of his 18-year MLS career. “But this will be normal for every MLS team in the next five to 10 years, I think.”
Jan. 30-Feb. 8 • Spring Training Trip to Tucson, Ariz.
Feb. 12-Feb. 23 • Spring Training Trip to Orlando, Fla.
March 3 • Season opener at FC Dallas
March 10 • Home opener vs. LAFC.