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Official Review by Jeremy Mauss, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Built in 2008, Rio Tinto Stadium has quickly become a great home field advantage for Real Salt Lake, and it rivals the Seattle Sounders for the best home field in all of Major League Soccer. Attendance has never been an issue for RSL as they routinely draw near 20,000 of their 20,213 stadium capacity.
The views at the stadium are breath taking as this stadium is just miles away from the mountains, but one view was missing from the stadium. In 2015, a brand new 4,200-square foot high-definition video board was added to the south side of the stadium.
Though the primary host of Rio Tinto Stadium is Real Salt Lake of the MLS, it also serves as the temporary home of the Real Monarch’s of the USL, and the stadium has hosted international soccer events including a U.S. World Cup qualifier, CONCACAF games, collegiate and international rugby competitions as well as high school football.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The food at Rio Tinto Stadium has a nice variety. They have the standard stadium food with popcorn, kettle corn, hot dogs, french fries, beer, soda and etc.
There is a wait time to get food but the staff work quickly as to not have people waiting in long lines, even during the busy halftime period. The only long line is for a local food truck favorite at the stadium called the CupBop which serves Korean food. However, for those who have that the wait is worth it.
What is also nice about the North and South concession areas is that there are standing areas with a bar to be able to eat your food and still be able to check out the game in more comfort than being wedged in your seat trying to eat.
There are plenty of drink options from soda, water, lemonade and beer. The price for a 20 ounce soda is still a bit on the high end at $4.50 as is a bottle of water. The beer and alcohol selection features the national brands like Budweiser and others, but what makes the alcohol selection well above average is the variety of local breweries available.
Getting a good guacamole burger is a must have at Rio Tinto. It is a little pricey at $10 but it is well worth it, and adding garlic fries and a Coke makes for a great meal.
A near sellout crowd of just over 20,000 makes this stadium a fun place to watch a game and can make non-soccer fans appreciate the home crowd. There are fans at the end of the South goal line that cheer non-stop where they chant, beat drums and have a large flag that they showcase when Real Salt Lake scores.
There is not a bad seat at Rio Tinto Stadium and even the seats on the second level provide a great view of the pitch. The new high-definition video board on the South end is visible to everyone except those who are on the south end, and that is because they are underneath the video board. The stadium crew does a good job in showing replays.
The seats are comfortable and you do not feel cramped when watching the game. There are suites that are on the second level and on the West side of the stadium where one can watch a game in a close area, or there are seats where they can enjoy the game outdoors.
In-game entertainment is really only performed during halftime since there are no breaks or timeouts. This is the area that is the weakest for the stadium, however the crowd brings noise and excitement to the game. A good public address announcer is important and the one for Real Salt Lake does their job which is about as good as one can say about a PA announcer.
While there are no bad seats at Rio Tinto Stadium, a good place to sit is on the second level or upper first level and near midfield. Sitting in the first handful of rows is great to be in the game and your view is great when the action is in front of you, however it can suffer when on the other end of the field.
The stadium is set up where if there is rain, or snow, the precipitation is limited since there is a partial cover to the Rio Tinto, so that is a bonus if weather is questionable. The mountains help block the sun for evening games and can be just a slight distraction for those fans who are facing the West, but it is not a deal breaker if sitting on the East side and facing a setting sun.
Standing room only seats also provide a good view which are on the North and South ends of the field. The view is great when action is on that end of the field and is a little bit of a struggle on the other end of the pitch.
The stadium is placed right in a neighborhood in Sandy, Utah, and the surrounding areas for pregame is limited and not that great. Within a few miles there is the standard fast food and a few chain sit-down restaurants, but by no means is there a signature place to eat prior to the game.
There are very few options within a mile to eat, and the standard fast food fare is what should be expected. A food stop nearby is the Mayan which is located at the Jordan Commons. The food there is Mexican cuisine but its nothing overly spectacular.
Two newer restaurants in the area are Ruby River Steakhouse and a Joe's Crab Shack that are less than a half-mile from Rio Tinto Stadium. The best recommendation might be to just eat at Rio Tinto Stadium because the food quality is about on par with these other restaurants and less of a hassle.
There is a Megaplex movie theatre that is nearby if you want to catch a movie before a night game or after an afternoon game. Honestly, if there was another option there would be one listed, but this area of town where the stadium is placed is lacking in pre and postgame activities. If being adventurous, one can drive up to Park City area and depending on the year can go skiing, hiking, sledding, zip lines and other outdoor activities. To get to these activities it is about a half hour drive up I-80.
There are three hotels about a mile away that could be considered walking distance, but for how busy the area is, walking works but may not be the best option. Two of those three are good hotel choices. The Econo Lodge in Sandy is good for a less expensive option usually under $65 per night. The Hyatt House and Garden Inn are still reasonable, but a bit nicer accommodations and run just over $100 per night. There are plenty of other options within a five mile range and nothing extraordinary in prices, pretty much anything can be had for a maximum of $150 per night.
Compared to other MLS stadiums, the RSL fan base stacks up as one of the best and, in face, rivals the amazing home crowd for the Seattle Sounders. The fans at Rio Tinto Stadium are passionate about Real Salt Lake and always have great attendance. It doesn't hurt that the team is usually in the playoff hunt and has an MLS Cup, too.
This year (2015) the team is struggling in the Western Conference but they still pull in over 20,000 per game and they are loud, have set cheers and are vocal on calls made by the referee. Real Salt Lake is near the top of the attendance in Major League Soccer and consistently draws about 19,000 and each game is a near sell out at 20,000 fans per game.
When a goal occurs, or when keeper Nick Rimando makes a big save, the stadium erupts and the South end of the field has a giant flag that is displayed as part of the celebration. The South end of the field is vocal for at least 90 percent of the game and with drums beating throughout.
Fans do walk around during the game. The North side of the field allows fans to walk to get something from concessions but still be able to see the game. There is an open area that allows a view of the action while not in one's seat.
Getting to the stadium is tricky because there are very few parking lots and they are sprawled out. Parking is quite sporadic around Rio Tinto Stadium with various cash lots and they range from $5 to $10 and are somewhat convenient to the stadium. The pay lots are on the North and Northwest side of the stadium, and there are public lots on the South and Southwest side of the stadium. There is no designated parking lot and the biggest one is pretty much a gravel lot.
Public transportation on UTA's trax is a good idea to get in and out. The best option is to take UTA's Trax which is the light rail and is a 15-minute walk from the Sandy Expo Station (at 9400 South, behind Jordan Commons).
Once you find a spot it is not too difficult to get into the stadium and the Southwest or Northwest entrances are the easiest to get into. Also, it is a breeze to get through security.
In-stadium traffic is not that big of a deal as the open areas at the North and South sides are wide open, and even during the most busiest of times there is plenty of room. You can see the field at either end of the field when walking around, and most importantly the bathrooms are clean and plentiful.
Real Salt Lakes' Rio Tinto Stadium has a great atmosphere, great amenities and a great product which, all together, puts it over the top as a great venue to watch a game. The only downside of attending a game at Rio Tinto Stadium is the parking and pregame food options. Everything else from ticket prices, to in-stadium food and the product on the field, creates a great environment and nice overall return on investment.
Stadium cell access is always a hot topic amongst fans and stadium wifi can be iffy at best. However, Rio Tinto does a great job with staying connected. There are various open wifi hotspots and there are only a few spots in the stadium where the internet drops off. Also, the speed of the internet is great and social media apps such as YouTube, Twitter, Instagram work as expected with little to no lag.
Other extras include great sightlines and unique ticketing options. The view of the Rockies beyond the stadium is spectacular.
Member Review by dmortimer
For those who have followed Real Salt Lake since its inception, Rio Tinto Stadium is as much of a miracle as Real Salt Lake's MLS Cup victory last season. The plan for a soccer-specific stadium was presumed dead several times on the Utah legislative floor (largely due to the debate over funding) before it finally opened in October 2008. Maybe that's what makes watching a game there, especially an international competition like what I saw, a special experience.
9400 State St
Sandy, UT 84070
9400 State St
Sandy, UT 84070
8955 S Harrison St
Sandy, UT 84070
9685 S Monroe St
Sandy, UT 84070
277 Sego Lily Dr
Sandy, UT 84070