BY DARRELL LOVELL
The torch of running Real Salt Lake has officially been passed on, as the club announced Thursday that Dave Checketts has sold his majority stake in the club to Dell Loy Hansen, who assumes sole ownership.
Checketts was the driving force behind bringing Major League Soccer to Utah in 2004. As principal owner, Checketts outlined a vision for a club that could thrive in Salt Lake City, MLS’ smallest market, by building a franchise that would embrace the community and place value on a family atmosphere.
Eight years later, Checketts exits with the sense that he has, with the help of his staff, accomplished his goals and more.
“We created something from nothing. There was no RSL; there was no shield; we created something from nothing,” Checketts said in a Thursday press conference. “It’s hard to realize when you’re building something exactly what is taking place, but as we’ve now gone through the years and reflected on these past eight years I believe we’ve achieved something really great.
“What we’ve created is something that we’ve set out to create. It’s a wonderful asset for the people of Utah, a place where they can come and be unified and watch the beautiful game.”
The list of accomplishments under Checketts is immense on both the business and soccer side of the organization.
In the boardroom, the club was the first in MLS to strike a jersey sponsorship deal with energy drink company XanGo, and pioneered the latest wave of soccer specific stadiums with the construction of Rio Tinto Stadium.
On the field, Checketts invested in Jason Kreis, to lead the way; giving the former player the means to build the type of team he felt would best achieve the club’s goals.
“We built a team and the team was the most driving force,” Checketts said. It was based on this concept that ‘The Team is the Star.’ So to [RSL Head Coach] Jason Kreis who created that concept.”
Kreis’ concept has led RSL to an MLS Cup in 2009 along with becoming the only MLS team to reach the finals of the CONCACAF Champions League in 2011.
As Checketts exits, Hansen, who acquired the club, stadium and radio outlet ESPN700 in the deal, steps in.
A three-year minority owner in the team, Hansen is a local businessman who shares Checketts passion for his “hometown” club. His immediate task is to continue the success found under the former ownership while driving RSL forward.
A trail blazed by the departing Checketts.
“This is a huge challenge and Dave is an impossible act to follow,” Hansen remarked. “While it’s been challenging to get us through this last three years, the ride has been worth it and I take the challenge to take the platform that has been so artfully put together by Dave. It’s humbling, but I’m going to try.”
Do you think the change in ownership will have an impact on RSL? Happy to see an MLS club stay in the hands of a local owner? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.