‘Deal on the table’ for naming rights to Real Salt Lake stadium

RSL in discussions with Salt Lake City company to replace Rio Tinto name.

The sun sets above Rio Tinto Stadium before an MLS soccer match between Real Salt Lake and Portland Timbers Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020, in Sandy, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

A Salt Lake City company’s name could adorn Real Salt Lake’s soccer stadium in Sandy by time the 2021 Major League Soccer season begins.

Visible Supply Chain Management is in discussions with RSL’s sales and marketing department to become the new name sponsor for Rio Tinto Stadium, John Dudash, the company’s chief marketing officer, told The Salt Lake Tribune. The company is currently considering an offer from RSL.

“I can tell you it’s not definitive or agreed, but we did explore the opportunity and continue to do so,” Dudash said Friday.

John Genna, RSL’s vice president of corporate sponsorship, confirmed to The Tribune that the club was in talks with Visible SCM. He said the club made a presentation to the company on Jan. 28 that included displaying “Visible SCM Stadium” on the digital video board “so we could get them excited about seeing their name in the lights.” He added that the presentation went well.

Since then, the club has had two follow-up discussions with Visible SCM, Genna said, but RSL is still waiting on feedback from the company. Genna added that the club has had “high level discussions” with other companies regarding naming rates, but presentations haven’t yet been given to those.

Dudash said as far as he can tell, it’s “business as usual” with the RSL front office, including the negotiations for the stadium’s naming rights. He said with the Rio Tinto name on its way out, the club wants a new sponsor for the stadium by the time the 2021 season starts, which is April 3.

Genna said the club’s timeline to find a new stadium sponsor is “when the right partner presents itself.”

Dudash said he has not spoken with team owner Dell Loy Hansen in his negotiations for the stadium’s naming rights and that he’s not aware of the league’s level of involvement on that front. The department he’s working with, however, appears to have the authority to sell the rights.

“They at least suggested to me, if not told me point blank, that they are able to cut a deal independent of any outside influence,” Dudash said. “I’d be shocked if the league didn’t have to sign off on it in some cursory way. But certainly they present themselves as if they’re the final decision makers. And whether Dell Loy is involved in that as the owner or not, I have no idea.”

Dudash said RSL interim president John Kimball has been part of presentations made to Visible SCM, but added that Kimball is “not directly involved in these negotiations.”

Genna said Kimball will likely be involved in the decision-making process of the stadium’s naming rights, and he thinks people from MLS will be as well. Still, that dynamic is not clearly defined, he said.

“With us not knowing how long this process could potentially take, who knows?” Genna said. “I don’t know, at the end of the day, who will be the final person to say, ‘Yes, we’re going with that deal, that offer.’”

Dudash said that in his dealings with the club in regards to the naming rights, it’s been presented to him that RSL has “multiple suitors” and Hansen is in negotiations with them, with MLS “facilitating some of those conversations as well to find a new owner that’s compatible with the city as soon as possible.”

“That’s how it’s been communicated to me,” Dudash said. “How much of that is true, what is going on behind the scenes, I would have no idea.”

Dudash said there are unanswered questions in regard to the talks because of current ownership transition, and that it would be easier for Visible to make a decision on naming rights if it knew who was going to own the team. But it appears that the negotiations are moving forward.

“We’ve got a deal on the table that they presented to us at a price point and at a term length and all the benefits that go with it and we’re considering it,” said Dudash, who declined to disclose specifics about the terms. “Right now, it’s just a back and forth.”

Genna said the naming rights agreement with Rio Tinto was originally set to expire at the end of 2018, but the company in 2013 extended it through Dec. 31, 2020.