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RSL set to open in ... Rio Tinto!
by Ridge Mahoney, September 30th, 2008 7AM

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Mock it if you will, but the naming-rights deal announced today for its new stadium moves Real Salt Lake up another notch in the business sector, more than a week before it unveils its new home on national television.

At a price between $15 million and $20 million, a United Kingdom-based company, Rio Tinto (Red River), has acquired naming rights for the next 10 years. The 20,000-seat facility in suburban Sandy will be known as Rio Tinto Stadium when it is christened a week from Thursday for its opening match against the Red Bulls.

"With Rio Tinto, we have found a very special sponsor with deep local ties and one who shares the unique vision for what this stadium provides," said Dave Checketts, operator-investor of RSL and chairman of SCP Worldwide, which manages the team and many other sports properties.

Rio Tinto is the parent company of Kennecott Utah Copper, Kennecott Land Company and Kennecott Exploration. One of the company's mines is within sight of the RSL stadium and the northwest section will be called Kennecott Plaza.

The deal also moves RSL ahead of the Crew, which has yet to sell naming rights for its facility - built in 1999 -- and is discussing selling off a piece of its ownership to an aggressive business group trying to land an MLS expansion franchise in Las Vegas, as reported by the Sports Business Journal.

"It's a huge show of confidence in our team, our franchise, the sport and the league," said Checketts to the Sports Business Journal. "This is not only a very large Utah company, but an international company that appreciates what we're doing in terms of the international game and its implications."

In dollar value, the deal falls in the middle of recent MLS naming-rights agreements. The sporting-goods chain Dick's Sporting Goods last year signed a 15-year, $30 million deal for the Rapids' stadium. The company is also an MLS national sponsor. Chicago's stadium deal with Toyota, signed in 2005, is worth $7.5 million for 10 years.

RSL's deal leaves Columbus as the only MLS team with a soccer-specific facility lacking naming rights.



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