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The City Journals

What the RSL Academy means for Herriman’s future

The mayor and city council take a photo with Leo the Lion. (Herriman City)

By Travis Barton [email protected]

When Herriman first caught wind that a Real Salt Lake Training Center would be constructed in the valley, Gordon Haight knew Herriman would be the perfect fit.

With lots of open space and a youthful city (median age is 24), Haight, Herriman’s assistant city manager and economic development director, figured Herriman could be the place for such an important structural moniker in the valley.

That was a few years ago. Now Haight, and the rest of Herriman City residents, are still basking in the glow of the facility’s grand opening for the Zions Bank Real Academy.

“It’s a beacon of excellence for what the human spirit can achieve,” Haight said of the complex at the grand opening on Feb. 28.  

The facility, located at 14787 South Academy Parkway, is a 42-acre behemoth along the Mountain View Corridor in the southernmost reaches of the valley. A $78 million campus, it features an indoor training facility recognized as the largest free-standing steel structure in North America, a STEM-based charter school, boarding facilities for some students and players, a 5,000-seat stadium where the Real Monarchs will play and outdoor soccer fields that are still being constructed among other amenities.

And it all came about when a deal fell through for John Lindsley and the Wasatch Group, a prominent Utah developer, for potential fairgrounds at the site of the academy.

That’s when Haight and Heather Upshaw, economic development manager, began calling Lindsley and others incessantly trying to set up meetings.

“(RSL owner and Wasatch Group CEO) Dell Loy (Hansen) had to make a decision, whether to issue a restraining order against us so his people could get working, or he was going to move this project to Herriman,” Haight said at the grand opening ceremony.

“They are pests,” Hansen joked. “They pestered us mightily, but they showed us great ideas.”

Once Haight finally spoke with Lindsley, Haight asked him what the chances were of getting the field where the fairgrounds would have been?

“At that time, it was just one field,” Lindsley told those in attendance at the grand opening. “It was a very simple theory, but we took it and we ran with it, and let me tell you, it was a crazy idea at the moment.”

More and more land was acquired, and the vision for the massive complex came to fruition.

“Whenever we hit a roadblock—and we hit numerous roadblocks—they knocked them all down,” Hansen said of Herriman city staff. “Just couldn’t ask for a better city to work with.”

Lindsley was complimentary of Herriman City, noting how much of a collaborative effort it was.

“There’s no way that a simple developer can put something together without strong support from a city, and I’ll tell you, this city has some of the best staff that there is in this area, hands down,” he said, highlighting former Mayor Carmen Freeman and assistant City Planner Bryn McCarty.

“All cities should implement the way Bryn and everyone in the planning and zoning department at Herriman City run this department,” Lindsley said. “It is far superior, and they have been great to work with.”

Haight believes the impact of the complex will be far-reaching, “even worldwide.”

While the soccer community can expect to see significant growth, Haight later told the Journal its benefits to Herriman are almost innumerable. 

Haight highlighted a few of them:

·       The STEM charter school will see students attending from the surrounding area. “It provides a unique opportunity you don’t see in other charter schools,” he said.

·       Other sports communities, like lacrosse and rugby, can use the facilities. “I think Herriman will grow as a place for an active lifestyle in a number of ways,” said Haight.

·       An additional soccer field was built for Herriman to program for recreational uses.  

·       People from around the valley, state and world will visit the city as a result. Haight said Real Madrid may use the facility as its base of operations during its American tour this summer, though those plans are not official.

·       Salt Lake Community College soccer teams will play their home games at the facility. SLCC also intend to build a 90-acre campus next to the academy. “It’s going to bring that college flavor atmosphere on game day that I think brings excitement for kids and adults,” Haight said.

·       Latino communities can play their Sunday soccer leagues on the facility.

·       It will spur economic growth with hotels, restaurants and an office park nearby, all within walking distance of each other. “It’s going to be a whole different experience for the users and the quality of life they’re going to have,” he said. “This will be a driver for those kinds of opportunities.”

·       The facility can also serve as an emergency shelter in the case of an earthquake or other natural disasters. 

“The list goes on and on how valuable this will be for our community,” Haight said.

He expects the complex to last generations and for those who see it to aspire to “bigger and better things.” Haight added people travel to cities to witness infrastructural marvels and how exciting it is to have that in Herriman.

“This facility is going to inspire generations.”