Choose your game: State's fans blessed with sports choices
"There's a big enough marketplace for us, and we've found our own niche."
One advantage for Real Salt Lake is that it plays the first five months of its schedule during football's offseason — because, in many ways, when it's in season, college football rules the roost in the Beehive State. Over the past five years the BYU and Utah football teams have both filled more than 97 percent of their seats and attracted average crowds of 62,231 and 43,620, respectively. To put those figures in perspective, the next-highest average attendance in Utah during the past five years belongs to the Jazz at 19,415.
Natalie Gochnour worked as Gov. Mike Leavitt's spokeswoman, and when Leavitt moved to Washington, D.C., to head the Environmental Protection Agency he brought Gochnour along to be associate administrator for public affairs at EPA.
"I lived in Washington, D.C., during Real's first season," she recalls. "I bought season tickets even though I was a resident of D.C. because I was an early supporter and I was flying back on the weekends and I was still able to get to some games."
Currently she works at the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce as vice president for policy and communications. The same brand of mental acuity, focus and passion that fuel her career are also on full display in her Real Salt Lake fandom.
"When I walk into a game I just sit there and marvel at the size of the crowd, the makeup of the crowd, the energy in the crowd," Gochnour said. "To someone who's a soccer devotee it's like a dream come true because it's in our hometown — not everybody has this — and they're a terrific team in a terrific facility. It's actually quite moving to see the type of sport that they have."
However, there is a fine-line limit to the lengths Gochnour will travel to show her support for RSL.
"I've adopted what any good soccer fan should do and so I wear Real-branded shirts," she said. "But I don't paint my face or anything like that. There was a time in my life when I may have done that, but I'm past my prime for that kind of thing."
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