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With a nod to championship history, the Utah Warriors unveil the headquarters of the future

SANDY – With a ceremonial ribbon cutting Wednesday afternoon, the Utah Warriors took the next step in the development of the six-year-old professional rugby club.

As one of the seven founding members of Major League Rugby in 2018, the Warriors officially opened their new, state-of-the-art headquarters and training facility with a ribbon cutting in front of a crowd of players, coaches, staff and dignitaries, including legendary Highland Rugby coach and USA Rugby Hall of Fame member Larry Gelwix, Real Salt Lake President John Kimball, Utah defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley and United States Rugby Football Union (now known as USA Rugby) broadcaster Dick Smith, who now calls Utah home.

“Rugby has a home in Utah,” said Kimball Kjar, CEO and co-founder of the Warriors, pointing to the doors of the facility behind him before turning to the crowd, which included the aforementioned guests, and symbolically spreading his arms wider. “This is your home.”

While the Warriors' traditional black and red branding adorns the facility and Utah Major League Rugby merchandise, including jerseys, shirts, hats and scarves, are scattered throughout the office, there is also a nod to the local rugby landscape.

This includes the “Utah Built” wall of national champions, from the University of Utah’s 2010 USA Sevens national title to the seven national championships won by Brigham Young University.

And then there are the 20 championships won by Highland, which inspired the 2008 film Forever Strong, which featured countless alumni, including Scalley, who played on Highland's bronze medal-winning team at the 1998 Schools Rugby World Cup before becoming the Mountain West's co-defensive player of the year as a safety and one of Kyle Whittingham's top assistants at the U.S.

“It may be the Warriors' ground, but it's really the rugby community's ground,” Kjar told KSL.com. “We want to make sure the community knows it's their ground, just like it's ours. We have such a rich legacy to build on: 35 national champions in 38 years, over 40 national team members from the state of Utah, two Olympians and two aspiring Olympians for 2024. The state of Utah has so much rugby history, and this facility is only here because of that community.

“Not only is this a great day for the team, players, family and staff, but it also gives back to the Utah rugby community that has built us up over so many generations.”

Since their inception, the Warriors have shared office space and training facilities with Real Salt Lake and its partners at the Zions Bank Real Academy in Herriman.

Utah's professional rugby team will continue to play its games at Zions Bank Stadium, although more games may be moved to America First Field due to demand for the 20,000-seat stadium in Sandy, Kjar noted.

This includes “WarriorsFest,” which will take place around the club's final regular season game on June 28 at 8:30 p.m. MDT against Los Angeles Rugby Football Club. The game, which will be broadcast on FS2, will also include live music, fireworks and a water polo toss fundraiser to benefit Primary Children's Hospital, which is seeking to set the world record for the largest water polo pool in North America.

In addition to hosting occasional games at the RSL's home stadium, the new facility will provide the Warriors with a place to call their own for both the rugby and business sides of the organization. It is located near the 12300 South highway exit, just south of the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium in Draper.

“We are so grateful to Real Salt Lake for having us as a tenant in their space. They continue to be great partners,” Kjar said. “But we will look to grow with Real Salt Lake to not only sell out Zions Bank Stadium, but also more games at America First Field. Having a place like this where we can tell the stories of all the national champions and the community – the story our players tell helps them understand and embrace the history and tradition of rugby in the state of Utah.”

Kimball, a member of the 1988 national championship team with Highland, added: “Rugby is the love of my life. I learned so many lessons there, not only in the sport but for the rest of my life.”

The Utah Warriors unveiled their new rugby headquarters and training ground in Draper on Wednesday, May 29, 2024.
The Utah Warriors unveiled their new rugby headquarters and training ground in Draper on Wednesday, May 29, 2024. (Photo: Sean Walker, KSL.com)

It's also a recruiting tool for the Warriors, who currently sit fifth in Major League Rugby's Western Conference ahead of Saturday's 8 p.m. MDT game against the San Diego Legion at Zions Bank Stadium, which head coach Greg Cooper calls a “must-win.”

“One of the things we noticed this year is that our daily preparation was a little disjointed because we didn't have our own facility,” Cooper said. “We didn't have our own facility and we were driving from one place to another. … But I think that creates a lot of unity and makes sure our preparation is top-notch. It gives us the opportunity for top-notch training, for trips downtown together and then allows us to really prepare well physically and build a bond that is really special.”

It is also a recruiting tool, a facility that can be used to develop local talent for the Warriors' pathway program and also to attract national (and international) talent to Utah.

“When it's fully completed, this will probably be the best rugby facility in Major League Rugby,” Kjar announced. “This pitch will be the best pitch in MLR and to use it to develop local players and to recruit top players to try and become the best players they can be is going to be huge.”

Cooper added: “If I were a rugby player and saw these facilities in Utah, I would want to be a part of it. I think it's an inspiring place and I think it will help with recruiting.”

Anna Harden

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