Don’t think of the new Salt Lake Regional Athletic Complex
as a chance to make a first impression. Salt Lake City, the host of the 2002 Winter Olympics is beyond that. But a reintroduction to sports planners is never a bad thing. And when considering the benefits of the 12-years-in-the-making facility, it’s fair to say Salt Lake City is now more of a viable option for a great number of events than anytime in its history.
Clay Partain, director of sports market sales at Visit Salt Lake
, says much of the credit belongs to Lisa Schmidt, who came on board as program manager at the RAC in January 2015. The former executive director of Utah Lacrosse Association
, Schmidt brought the events background and direction needed to make a soft opening last fall. On April 2, the 16-field (six lighted) facility celebrated its grand debut and is already in the running for several major competitions in the coming years. Connect Sports spoke to Partain and Schmidt about why they consider the RAC such a game changer.
Details, details, details.
Schmidt says one major aspect planners will love is the complex handles much of the logistics. She ensured power outlets are available throughout the 140-acre center, more than enough ice machines for trainers, space for vendors and food trucks, and Wi-Fi. And because the facility was built to host events, there’s no need to go through the local government to get a separate permit. “Some are small details but mean an enormous amount to someone bringing in 100 teams with a lot to organize,” says Schmidt.
The trend is to place new venues in city suburbs where there’s usually more space. But the RAC is five minutes from Salt Lake City International Airport and the city’s downtown corridor, making it easy to access hotels and transportation. With its long-awaited debut finally official, the complex is turning into an easy sell for Partain. “Now that the word is out, we’re not having to beg for business,” he says. “We’re having people knock on our door. It’s refreshing to have a world-class facility in our portfolio.”
As host of the Winter Olympics, Salt Lake is often considered a cold-weather city. But the facility, open April through Halloween, is a giant reminder that spring and summer sports like soccer, rugby, Ultimate Frisbee and lacrosse thrive there. “I think what surprises people is just how mild it is here,” says Partain. “We don’t get a whole lot of snow.” Word is already getting out about the destination: Salt Lake hosted the USA Weightlifting Olympic Trials this spring, and USA Fencing will bring its national championship there next summer.
“I’m not lying; these are the prettiest fields I have ever seen,” says Schmidt of the all-natural grass complex. “Everybody I take on a tour lays on the grass. It’s the strangest phenomenon—they want to do these grass angels because it’s turf you have never seen before.” Real Salt Lake’s minor league affiliate, the Salt Lake Monarchs, particularly benefits from the maintenance because it can practice there on a fresh field daily. Schmidt restricts activity to 25 hours per week on each field and limits out-of-season events to ensure the grass quality remains at a high level for all tournaments.
Partain estimates the direct economic benefit will be in the dozens of millions of dollars once the RAC hits its full stride in 2017 and 2018. The Women's Rugby Super Series selected Salt Lake over various Canadian destinations for its July 1-9 event. The US Youth Soccer Region IV Presidents Cup has already signed on for 2017 and 2018 too. Partain says Presidents Cups represent about 10,000 room nights each and should generate $5 million each year.