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

10 photos
Save Story
Leer en español

Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes

SANDY — With one cut of a ceremonial ribbon, the Utah Warriors took the next step in the six-year professional rugby club's evolution Wednesday afternoon.

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

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

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

That 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.

Then there's the 20 championships won by Highland, the inspiration for the 2008 film Forever Strong that included countless alumni like Scalley, who played on the bronze-medal winning Highland squad at the 1998 world schools rugby championships before he was Mountain West co-defensive player of the year at safety and one of Kyle Whittingham's top assistants at the U.

"As much as it's the Warriors' space, it's actually the rugby community's space," Kjar told KSL.com. "It's the space that we want to make sure the community knows is their own, as much as it is ours. We have such a rich heritage that we're built upon; 35 national champions in 38 years, over 40 national team members from the state of Utah, two Olympians and two prospective Olympians for 2024. There is so much rugby history in the state of Utah, and this facility is only here because of that community.

"While this is an amazing day for the team, the players, the family, the staff, this is just as much a facility that we will be able to do for a rugby community in the state of Utah that has helped build us for so many generations."

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

Utah's pro rugby team will continue to play games at Zions Bank Stadium — though more games could move to America First Field, based on demand for the 20,000-seat stadium in Sandy, Kjar noted.

That will include "WarriorsFest," built around the club's regular-season finale June 28 at 8:30 p.m. MDT against Rugby Football Club Los Angeles. The match, which will be broadcast on FS2, will also include live music, fireworks and a beach ball toss fundraiser for Primary Children's Hospital that will attempt to set the world record for largest beach ball pit in North America.

Besides being located to the occasional match at RSL's home stadium, the new facility gives the Warriors a place to call their own, both on the rugby and business sides of the organization, located near the 12300 South freeway exit, just south of the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium in Draper.

"We're so grateful for Real Salt Lake letting us be tenants inside of their space. They continue to be great partners," Kjar said. "But we're going to try to scale with Real Salt Lake, to not only sell out Zions Bank Stadium but also more games at America First Field. To have a space like this, where we can tell the stories of all the national champions and the community — the story that tells for our players helps them to understand and adopt the history and tradition of rugby in the state of Utah."

Added Kimball, a member of the 1988 national champion squad with Highland: "Rugby is the love of my life. It's where I learned so many lessons, not just in sports but for the rest of my life."

Utah Warriors check out the facility at the unveiling of the Warriors' new headquarters and training facility in Draper, Wednesday, May 29, 2024.
Utah Warriors check out the facility at the unveiling of the Warriors' new headquarters and training facility in Draper, Wednesday, May 29, 2024. (Photo: Hannah Miner, Utah Warriors)

It's also a recruiting tool for the Warriors, who are currently in fifth place in Major League Rugby's western conference before what head coach Greg Cooper called a "must-win" match with the San Diego Legion at 8 p.m. MDT Saturday at Zions Bank Stadium.

"One of the things we've noticed this year is that our day-to-day preparation has been a little disjointed, because we haven't had a facility for ourselves," Cooper said. "We haven't had a facility to ourselves, and we've been going from one place to another. … But I think this allows for a lot of unity, and for our preparation to be high-class. It gives us an opportunity for high-class training, for downtown together, and then to allow us to prepare really well physically and to build a bit of bond that is really special."

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

"This is likely going to be the best rugby facility in Major League Rugby, when it's fully completed," Kjar proclaimed. "This space is going to be the best space in MLR, and to use that to develop local players and bring in top players looking to become the best player they can be, it's going to be huge."

Added Cooper: "If I were a rugby player and saw these Utah facilities, I would want to be a part of it. I think it's an inspirational place to be, and I think it will help with recruitment."


Most recent Utah Warriors stories

Related topics

Utah WarriorsSportsNational Sports
KSL.com BYU and college sports reporter


From first downs to buzzer beaters, get KSL.com’s top sports stories delivered to your inbox weekly.
By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to KSL.com's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

KSL Weather Forecast