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West Valley City Journal

Diverse School ‘Adopted’ by RSL, to Build New Fields

Jun 16, 2016 08:19AM ● By Bryan Scott

Students and players stop for photos as kids hold a picture of what the new court will look like. – Mary VanMinde

By Travis Barton | [email protected]

In a school as diverse as Granger Elementary, the international language can often be spoken with feet. 

The Real Salt Lake Foundation, along with various partners, adopted Granger Elementary to turn the school’s tennis courts into futsal courts. The project is set to begin June 6 with the grand opening scheduled for July. 

“The kids were just over the moon,” Principal Amber Clayton said. 

On April 19, an assembly was held at the school where Mary VanMinde, Executive Director of the RSL Foundation, announced the new courts with Leo the Lion and other guests from RSL while players from the Real Monarchs, RSL’s affiliate team, made an appearance at lunch time. 

During the assembly VanMinde held up a board with a picture of the tennis courts before asking, “what if we turned them into soccer courts?” flipping the board around to reveal the design of the new courts in RSL colors. 

“The kids went crazy,” VanMinde said. “Honestly, it was just a magical day.” 

VanMinde said she chose Granger Elementary after doing an assembly there the year previous and seeing the condition of the tennis courts. The school was originally built on a former park so while the soccer field was removed, the tennis courts remained.

“[The tennis courts] were so dilapidated… since it’s an elementary school, tennis courts are harder to utilize for the school,” VanMinde said. “And that school is larger than most junior highs.”

Granger Elementary has 979 kids from kindergarten through sixth grade with 28 different languages spoken. Clayton said soccer is the right sport to be promoted amongst these kids. “Football isn’t really our game here, soccer is our game so for these kids, that really is the sport,” Clayton said. 

The diversity of the school matches the diversity of the RSL team, Clayton said, as RSL has team members from Central America, South America, Europe and even Africa.

“It was wonderful for kids to see people living their dream who look just like them,” Clayton said. 

It’s a sport that Clayton said she hopes can incorporate the surrounding community even more. 

“One of my hopes is that it’ll promote soccer in the community and that we may get some more rec leagues,” Clayton said. “I would love to leave school at the end of the day and see people playing on [the courts].”

RSL brought various members of its organization to the assembly from grounds workers to the sales team. Clayton said it was great for the kids to see opportunities to be involved with professional sports teams outside of being a player. 

“Not everybody is going to be a professional soccer player, but there are all these other careers where you get to be intimately involved in that sport,” Clayton said.

Granger Elementary is a community school, and the only one on the west side, which means due to its high economic or social needs, the school looks for non-profit and corporate sponsors with mutual interests to solve those needs.  

“It means we’re always looking for opportunities to do better things for kids and families, I’ll take the soccer pitches,” Clayton said. 

VanMinde, who comes from an education background, said an innovative principal like Clayton is necessary with a school that size. 

“You have to be really creative with your space and soccer is so powerful there,” VanMinde said. “So it’s important to have a principal like Amber who really understands the whole child and the passion that soccer has and the power of the game for good.”  

VanMinde said it worked out really well since the property already had courts of similar size and the fencing to set up the mini-pitches. 

“The stars aligned on [this] one,” VanMinde said. 

RSL’s partners on this project include MLS WORKS, Adidas, the US Soccer Foundation who partner with the Utah Development Academy, Southern New Hampshire University and Granite School District. 

MLS WORKS, Adidas, Southern New Hampshire University and the U.S. Soccer Foundation have partnered to build 20 mini-pitches in conjunction with the league’s 20 clubs. The location for RSL’s first mini-pitch: West Valley City.