Utah native the unexpected savior of Costa Rican soccer team Herediano

Published: Tuesday, March 12 2013 10:45 a.m. MDT

Editor's note: This is part one of a two-part series on David J. Patey.

David J. Patey, a Utah native in his mid-30's, is to Costa Rican soccer team Club Sport Herediano what Larry Miller was to the Utah Jazz.

A successful, Utah-raised real estate investor, Patey and his brothers, Mike and Mark, own Costa Rica Consultants, a firm specializing in large, short-term loans private individuals, using real estate as collateral.

Patey has never has been much of a soccer fan, and not until October of 2012 did he ever have a desire to own a sports franchise of any kind. But when the opportunity came to purchase Herediano, Patey and his brothers took a look at the club's ledger, its business plan and the market opportunity, and decided that owning a club could be fun.

The fact that the club's ledger was bleeding red ink and its business plan was so poor that the club hadn't made payroll in six months didn't stop them. The opportunity to do good to the club, its players and fans was too much of an opportunity to give up.

"It was curiosity to start, it turned into understanding the circumstances the club was going through," Patey says, "This is not a charity. I wouldn't do this if there wasn't a business plan to go with it. But yeah, it was in a tough situation."

Herediano was not suffering financially for lack of an on-the-field product or tradition. Sport Club Herediano was founded in 1921, and along with Costa Rican clubs Saprissa and Liga Deportiva Alajuelense, is among the most popular teams in Costa Rica. Named for the Heredia province where the club is based, it's fan base stretches across the nation.

Throughout 2012, the club was winning and winning big. Herediano won the national title in the spring, and by fall had played well in the CONCACAF Champions League, needing only a draw against former MLS champion Real Salt Lake to advance to the knockout stages.

"[Herediano] means a lot," current RSL striker and former Saprissa striker Alvaro Saborio says, "[Soccer] is the number one sport in the country. Herediano is a very good team, a good franchise. Every game against them was very important for us, for Saprissa, but every game we played, we played hard and did our best."

For the club's 26-year-old striker, Esteban Ramirez, playing for the club is more than just a job - it's a dream come true. He was born and raised in Heredia province and has been attending games since he was three years old.

"I have been a fan as long as I can remember." Ramirez says. "It's like a dream for me. The scores, the moments, the games always are good. We have a great team. We are winning almost all our matches and are almost always in our tournament finals."

In that match against RSL, Herediano earned a scoreless draw and eliminated the home side from Champions League competition. At that point the club was in dire financial straits, having not made payroll in six months. Patey was not yet involed with the team.

During their trip to Salt Lake City, Herediano's players stayed in a cheap motel and prepared for their match without winter clothing and without adequate food, supplies or equipment.

"That trip for us was terrible," Ramirez says. "We didn't stay at a great hotel. We didn't have money for food everyday. We trained at a public park, I don't know. We didn't get the preparation that we normally do for an important game like that."

Yet Herediano advanced, and they will continue their Champions League run on Wednesday when they play the L.A. Galaxy in Carson, Calif.

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