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Checketts says soccer will bring jobs, million$

Published: Saturday, Aug. 1 2015 10:31 a.m. MDT

The new Utah professional soccer franchise has yet to choose a name or uniform colors, but owner Dave Checketts suggested Thursday it will produce plenty of green.
The franchise, which will begin play in the MLS next year, will create 200 new jobs and have a $179 million economic impact over the next decade, he said.
"That's what professional sports should do. It should create jobs. It should create economic benefits," Checketts said during the annual meeting of the Economic Development Corp. of Utah.
Other benefits include live national and international television appearances. "And that will give the city, its beauty in the summer, surrounded by these mountains, that will give the city just tremendous exposure," he said.
Checketts is hoping businesses catch the spirit of the new team by signing up as partners, sponsors and season-ticket buyers. The team will serve to unite soccer fans and boost the economy, he said.
"It really is going to be a major league effort," he said, "and I've always considered Salt Lake City as a major league city."
He's also hoping to build the franchise the same way the Utah Jazz grew after he took over as Jazz president and general manager in 1983. At the time, the Jazz were not profitable, attracted only about 6,000 fans a night with a season-ticket base of 1,500 and faced continuous questions about a possible departure. Now the team is a source of pride, a successful business playing in a larger arena and a permanent and beneficial part of the economy and community, Checketts said.
His time with the Jazz and as president and chief executive officer of New York's Madison Square Garden — with three sports franchises — taught him certain lessons he said he will apply to the soccer franchise.
"You just cannot expect people to come out out of their sense of community support, suddenly buy tickets and attend your games," he said. "You have to have appropriate pricing, a compelling product, and you have to be a big part of the community and give back in a very big way."
The team will announce its name, unveil its logo and name a coach and general manager soon — all in preparation for its April-to-November schedule next year.
Checketts promised "no Z's" from the franchise: The name will not include Zs at the end and there will be "no sleeping when you're in the stadium."
"Many of you and many of Utah's fans don't really understand what soccer's about, and they kind of consider it a sleepy sport. They wonder how much takes place. But it's the world's No. 1 sport, and there's a reason for that. And you may not get it now, but you will get it when you're in the stadium, watching the home team play against the likes of Chicago, Washington, New York and Los Angeles. This is Major League Soccer. This is the highest level of the sport in this country."
He's pinning the franchise's hopes on Salt Lake being a good sports town, the state's distinction of having the highest per capita participation in youth soccer, tickets averaging $12 to $18, a growing Hispanic/Latino population and the fact that Utah has no summertime major league sports team.
"So it will be very affordable for families," he said. "It will be on great midsummer nights in Salt Lake City, when the air kind of cools down but it's very dry. To have a soccer stadium full of people cheering their home team on will be a great, great thing for this community."


E-mail: bwallace@desnews.com

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