Rio Tinto Stadium – Real Salt Lake
“If you believe, then just stand up on your feet, and shout it loud Real. Here at the RioT the Battle hymn’s begun, we’re here for RSL.”
The lyrics are simple and the tune is catchy, but more than anything, it is the official anthem of Real Salt Lake that embodies the spirit of the fans and squad. Taking a cue from the Spanish League team, Salt Lake’s MLS franchise would adopt the moniker “Real”, which is Spanish for royal. From their humble beginnings as an MLS expansion team in 2004, Real Salt Lake would begin play in the University of Utah’s Rice-Eccles Stadium. Founder, former Jazz GM, Dave Checketts, would then begin to find a way into a soccer specific venue. This would lead Real Salt Lake to leave Salt Lake City for the small suburb of Sandy and their new soccer stadium in 2008. The naming rights would be sold to the Rio Tinto Mining Company and Rio Tinto Stadium was born.
Located in one of the smallest markets in MLS, Real Salt Lake has earned some success over time. Winning the MLS Cup as league Champions in 2009, Real Salt Lake has captured the intrigue and imagination of fans in Utah. Checketts would make an exit in favor of minority partner Dell Roy Hansen to comprise the modern ownership structure. With a solid fanbase, RSL continues to be a strong franchise in the league and continuing to thrive off of the battle hymn, Believe.
Food & Beverage 4
Rio Tinto Stadium offers a wide variety of concession experiences at its numerous locations throughout the main concourse.
The Real Faves concessions offer hot dogs ($6), nachos, ice cream, churros, candy and pretzels. There are a few of these stands that can be found around the stadium. For the most part, the rest of the concession stands are unique and found in one location in the stadium. Little Caesars features their Deep Deep Dish Pizza ($9), the Four Corners Smokehouse has a variety of BBQ favourites including BBQ nachos, BBQ pork sandwiches, banh mi sandwiches and loaded baked potato fries. The Bonfire Grille has a variety of burgers and hot dogs. Sushi can be found at a portable stand. The Twin Peaks Grill features a variety of items, most notably High Fries, which come with the Utah staple, Fry Sauce. Chilli Verde features Mexican fare and the Smoke & Pour has Burnt End Brisket Nachos.
Soft drink options are Pepsi products throughout Rio Tinto Stadium ($4.75). Other soft drink options available include Gatorade, water, hot chocolate, energy drinks and Starbucks Iced Coffee.
There are a few different beer options that can be found throughout Rio Tinto Stadium. The main draught selections ($9.50/$10.50) are Bud Light, Shock Tip, Redd’s Apple Ale, Blue Moon and Coors Light. For fans that want some local flavor, there is a Uinta Brewing Company stand that has a few microbrews available including Baba Organic Black Lager and Trader Session IPA.
Commonly referred to as the Riot (RioT for Rio T), Rio Tinto Stadium offers a great atmosphere for Real Salt Lake and Major League Soccer. The exterior of the stadium is not overly intimidating and does not look out of place compared to other soccer specific MLS stadiums. The east side of the stadium, along State Street is where most fans enter and there is a large gathering spot complete with inflatable games for the kids and other pre-match activities. A large golden soccer globe welcomes fans at State Street with the sign for the stadium and team. The America First Credit Union Pavilion offers pre-match entertainment and a licensed spot for fans to enjoy food or drink along with some entertainment.
Inside the stadium, fans will notice the open nature of the RioT. Walking through the concourses gives fans the opportunity to still see the pitch and not miss the match while moving around the stadium or getting some concessions. The seats feature the RSL logo emblazoned in them. The pitch is pure green as one would expect and free from advertising and is in a north south configuration. With a little exploring, fans will be able to find the Utah Soccer Hall of Fame display. The seating bowl is fairly simple with a full circle of seats around the pitch, upper deck on the east side and suites above the grandstand on the west side. The east and west seats are covered with a canopy. The north and south ends of the stadium feature very nice video boards, with the larger on the south end. The lone honor that can be seen from the interior of the stadium is the retiring of the number 9, belonging to Jason Kreis on the west fascia. Kreis was the very first RSL player and also the coach during the team’s strongest stretch. Although Real Salt Lake won the 2009 MLS Cup and 2010 Supporters Shield evidence of this is not obvious.
Although most MLS in-game experiences are pretty generic, Real offers a few unique items. The pre-match concludes with a fan getting the honor of banging the gong. Leo, Real’s mascot, runs in with the Real Salt Lake flag and is accompanied by a Little Leo, a young fan dressed like a lion, carrying a flag of their own. The officials and both teams enter the stadium in the traditional manner, side-by-side and flanked by young soccer fans. The other unique item is the official anthem of Real Salt Lake, “Believe.” It is played over the loud speakers to start the match and the fans take it from there. It is also played after Real Salt Lake goals. A stronger presence of Real Salt Lake history and accomplishments would have given Real a perfect atmosphere score.
Rio Tinto Stadium is located south of Salt Lake City, in the suburb of Sandy. State Street is where fans will find the stadium, along with mostly fast food options. That being said, there are a few unique spots that may interest fans for a pre or post game meal. Joe’s Crab Shack is very close, just across State Street at Jordan Commons. For fans that are new to Utah, a trip to Crown Burger or Chuck-a-Rama will offer a uniquely Utah dining experience.
There are a number of other entertainment options in the Salt Lake City area. Unfortunately all require a drive out of Sandy. Utah’s Olympic Park is fully functional all year round and offers a variety of activities that fans can participate in. The centerpiece of Salt Lake City is the Temple Square area. The headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is breathtaking and open to all, including those not of the Mormon Faith. Activities at Temple Square are usually free, including rehearsals and recordings of the famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir. As far as other sporting options go, there are a few within Salt Lake City. The NBA’s Utah Jazz play at Vivint Smart Home Arena and Minor League Baseball is available at Smith’s Ballpark, home of the Salt Lake Bees. The University of Utah is also in Salt Lake City where the Utes play football at Rice-Eccles Stadium and basketball at the Huntsman Center.
For fans that are looking for a place to stay that is close to Rio Tinto Stadium, the Hyatt, Residence Inn and Holiday Inn are all located in the Sandy area.
Real Salt Lake is the smallest market in MLS, but the fans at the RioT are a solid group. Real has averaged between 18,500 and 20,000 per match in 2017, 2016 and 2015. They rank in the middle of MLS, but are close to 20,213 capacity each match. Other teams with larger stadiums, including a couple that play in football stadiums, have the opportunity to attract more fans than Real Salt Lake. That being said, the RioT offers an intimate experience. Real features seven main supporter groups (The Loyalists, Rogue Cavaliers Brigade, Salt City Limited, Section 26, La Barra Real, The Royal Pride, The Royal Army). The supporters populate the south end and sing, dance and chant for the entire match. They are loud and supportive.
Getting in and around the RioT is not too difficult. State Street is a pretty busy street and can move slowly at times. Getting away from the stadium can be very slow. Just west of the stadium is I-15, which travels north and south through Utah and heads right into Salt Lake City.
There is public transit available in Sandy. The light rail station is located a block from the stadium. There are also buses which travel up and down State Street. Check the Utah Transit Authority website for fares, schedules and maps.
For fans who are heading to the match by car, there are a number of surface lots around the stadium that are privately operated.
The east side of the stadium features the ticketing windows, which do not have huge lines.
Inside the stadium, the concourses are very wide and easy to maneuver. The washroom facilities are also very good.
Return on Investment 5
The Real Salt Lake experience offers fans a great MLS experience at a reasonable price. Tickets for Real Salt Lake will run between $125 and $25 with most mid-range tickets at a reasonable $40. Parking will cost fans between $5 and $10 and concession prices are what one would expect. Overall, the experience of the RioT is well worth the cost.
An extra mark for a little celebrity rub with Rancid drummer Branden Steineckert who wrote the anthem “Believe” which has been adopted as the team’s official anthem.
Two extra marks for the amazing mountain view afforded at Rio Tinto Stadium and the sunset behind the mountains. Not something that can be duplicated!
An extra mark for Real Salt Lake’s rivalry with the Colorado Rapids. Both teams annually play for the Rocky Mountain Cup.
Soccer fans in the United States and Canada are discovering that MLS is a great soccer experience. Real Salt Lake, with the RioT and the ridiculously catchy anthem, Believe, are an experience right up there with the best MLS has to offer. Once fans have experienced RSL and Rio Tinto Stadium, they will believe and most assuredly be humming the anthem on the way out of the stadium.
Latest Crowd Reviews
A visit to Rio Tinto Stadium combines in excess of 20,000 fans with a fervent and respectful atmosphere where fun and excitement are ever-present from the moment you step into the stadium. Cleverly positioned events on site at pre-game, a magnificent backdrop on both the east and west sides, and a stadium built where each seat is right on top of the pitch provides an atmosphere that is special and memorable.