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  • Connor Comeau

America First Field – Real Salt Lake


Photos by Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.71

American First Field 9256 South State Sandy, UT 84070 Map It

Real Salt Lake website America First Field website

Year Opened: 2008 Capacity: 20,213

 

Believe Real

Opened in 2008, Rio Tinto Stadium currently serves as the home of Real Salt Lake of Major League Soccer. With a capacity of over 20,000, the stadium has seen many incredible moments and is home to one of the longest sellout streaks in Major League Soccer. And with one of the most loyal and loud fan bases in MLS, it’s no wonder why this stadium is one of the toughest to play in. From the very passionate Supporters Section to the casual fan, this is one of the best stadiums to catch a soccer match.

Note: In Sept 2022, the stadium name changed from Rio Tinto Stadium to America First Field.


Food & Beverage 4

If you are ever hungry during a match, do not fret. There are several food options along the upper concourse, including local businesses, making it unique among MLS Stadiums. The lines can be long, but they are very fast, meaning you can be back to your seat in no time.

Some of the stands serve your traditional stadium food options, but there are some very good local options within the stadium. One of those is J. Dawgs, a Utah Hot Dog company serving both regular and Polish style hot dogs for $5 each, or you can do a combo for $9. The City Grill does their Burger of the Match for every home game, depending on the opponent. For this review, the opponent was Sporting KC, so the burger was the Kansas City BBQ Burger. Spoiler alert, it was good.

For those looking for drink options rather than food, Rio Tinto Stadium serves Pepsi products, and the price is around $4.75 for a normal drink. There are also alcohol stands around the concourse, including Bud Light, Coors Lights and Redd’s just to name a few.

Atmosphere 4

There is definitely a local and family friendly feel for anyone visiting Rio Tinto Stadium for a match, which adds to the overall atmosphere of the stadium.

Seating wise, there is not one bad seat in the stadium, including club seats. Every seat has a direct view of the field with no obstructions, making it super easy to watch a match. The only thing the seats lack are cup holders, but that doesn’t take away from the overall seating much. And you won’t have a problem with WiFi either, as it is available throughout the stadium. The speed of the WiFi, however, depends on the size of the crowd, but most times isn’t too bad, and many people are not on their phones during matches.

The mascot for Real Salt Lake is Leo the Lion, and is a big part of the stadium experience. Each home game, Leo will run onto the pitch with the RSL flag, along with a “Little Leo”, a younger fan running along with Leo using their own flag. And as far as sound quality in the stadium goes, it is quite good considering the stadium is almost 15 years old. For those that need to step away from the game, the stadium offers a “Quiet Space” on the University of Utah Health Plaza where people can go if they need to go somewhere quiet.

There is really no bad seat in the stadium as far as viewing goes. But if you’re coming in the summer, be warned that the East side of the stadium gets more sun than the West, so you’ll have the sun beating down on you for a little while during the game.

Neighborhood 3

The stadium is located just off of Interstate 15 in Sandy, a suburb about 20 miles south of Downtown Salt Lake. The site is located next to 9000 South and State Street, a normally busy road that traverses all of Salt Lake County.

Food wise, there are a couple of options within walking distance of the stadium, such as Crown Burger and Sizzler plus your traditional fast food chains. But you will need to drive south a short distance (about 5 minutes) to find sit-down restaurants, most of which are found at The Shops at South Towne. One local spot there is Slackwater Sandy, a pizzeria that does offer live music most days.

For those looking for things to do outside of the stadium, there are plenty of outdoor options nearby if you’re an outdoor enthusiast. If not, you’ll have to drive either north or south for attractions. Downtown Salt Lake offers plenty of attractions, including Temple Square and The Gateway shopping center. Going further south on Interstate 15 is the Living Planet Aquarium located in Draper. It is hard to miss from the road, as you can see the giant stage that sits outside the building. And if you’re looking for other sports options, there are two options in Salt Lake City: Vivint Arena, home of the NBA’s Utah Jazz; and Smith’s Ballpark, home of the Minor League Baseball team, the Salt Lake Bees.

If you’re looking for a place to stay overnight, there is an Econo Lodge within walking distance, offering rooms between $65 to $80 a night. If you’re looking for a more upscale option, there are a few hotels south of the stadium. Both the Hyatt House and Hilton Garden Inn are located off of Interstate 15 and rooms here go for around $115 per night.

Fans 5

It’s no secret that soccer fans are some of the most passionate in sports, and that’s no exception when it comes to Real Salt Lake. This may be up for debate, but RSL has some of the most dedicated fans in Major League Soccer.

Since their move to Rio Tinto in 2008, Real Salt Lake has seen multiple seasons of 5 or more sold out games, including at least 10 straight sellouts in 2022. This is dependent on the weather, of course, but most games at the RioT are either close to or are completely sold out. On average, you’ll have about 80 to 90 percent capacity for most games.

There is a traditional Supporters Section within the stadium, but if you can’t see them, you can definitely hear them from first kick all the way to the final whistle. There is also a march to the stadium that takes place around an hour prior to kick off, and supporters are encouraged to join in. And the “Believe” chant is loud, especially when RSL scores a goal. When they do, it’s one of the loudest roars in MLS. The fans definitely are passionate for the Cobalt and Blue.

Access 4

The stadium is located directly off of Interstate 15, so there is no trouble finding the stadium. And once inside, there is plenty of room to walk around as well.

The Utah Transit Authority runs their UTA Trax service near the stadium, and fares are low. Trains run every 15 minutes and is $2.50 for children and $5 for adults, so it is a good option if you want to save on parking. The stops are a bit of a walk to the stadium, but nothing too bad. Your best bet is to get off at the Sandy Expo Center stop, which provides you with the closest access to the stadium.

There are also 4 to 5 parking lots around the stadium, all of which are very accessible and are within walking distance. Prices are also relatively cheap, with parking costs averaging $10 – $20 on game day. If you are going to park, make sure to buy your parking along with your tickets, as this guarantees you a spot as lots fill up pretty fast on game day.

The concourse is wide open, giving patrons the opportunity to freely move about the stadium during the match. Even when concession lines get long, there’s still plenty of ample space to walk around and take in the sights and sounds.

Be advised if you are going to a game, tickets are mobile only; no paper tickets are allowed. You are allowed to bring one closed water bottle into the stadium, but backpacks and other bags must be put away in your car as they will not be allowed in.


Return on Investment 5

The experience that you get for the price you pay here is very good. The ticket range for prices is between $15 and $125, with the median ticket price between $35 and $40. Concessions are about the average price for a sporting event. And the viewing experience is second to none. This would definitely be a place to bring your family to for a game.

Extras 1

One point for the amazing Utah sunsets, especially during the summer when the majority of games are happening. Once in a while, you get an amazing orange, pink and purple sunset, which is an experience itself.

Final Thoughts

Rio Tinto is one of the best family friendly stadiums in MLS, and the organization does a very good job keeping it that way. There are plenty of things to do before and during the game, and the fan base is as passionate as they come. This is definitely a stadium you need to have in mind the next time you’re in Utah.

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