The RioT is no more — in official name at least.
Real Salt Lake’s stadium has a new title sponsor — America First Credit Union — and the stadium’s name has changed to America First Field, RSL announced Saturday.
The website Sportico reported the deal is worth roughly $100 million over 15 years, , putting RSL’s rights deal “on par with those of the Los Angeles MLS franchises and double most clubs outside of L.A.”
“RSL and America First Credit Union share many tenets, including an ambitious vision of, commitment to, and innovation for our collective community,” RSL President John Kimball said in a statement. “The depth, breadth and term of this naming rights deal for America First Field is exemplary of that partnership, and we look forward to further deepening our jointly held roots across not only the great state of Utah but throughout the Intermountain West.
The change does raise an immediate question for RSL diehards. Rio Tinto Stadium earned the nickname the RioT not long after it opened in 2008, and the moniker has been integrated into fan culture.
Some diehard RSL fans said they don’t care what company has the official naming rights. To them, it will always be called “The RioT,” and they don’t plan on changing the lyrics to the “Believe” song written by Rancid drummer and RSL fan Branden Steineckert.
“I don’t care a whit what the sign says, I’ll always refer to our stadium as The RioT,” fan Mattey Casey said. “That holds true even if they build a new stadium in downtown SLC someday. And I’ll always sing ‘Believe’ at kickoff and after every goal the lads score. Some things are permanent.”
Steineckert himself addressed that very question in response to a tweet.
“The RioT applies to any match home or away,” the drummer wrote. “It’s always a RioT fighting for our club on/off the pitch and the battle hymns begun! We’re here for RSL!”
Another fan, Kristy Sauter, before the news was officially announced, sympathized with any new company that would take over naming rights at the stadium because, in her mind, there likely will never be another nickname that reflects the new business venture.
“I would continue calling it the RioT, and will want to keep the song the same,” Sauter said. “I know this isn’t fair to whomever has the next name contract for it, but I can’t imagine another name being better for that stadium.”
America First has been a partner of RSL since the club’s inception in 2005, when it played its home games at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
“We’re elated to expand our relationship with Real Salt Lake and Major League Soccer by having our name on this elite sports and entertainment venue, and by offering the exclusive RSL-branded credit card and debit card,” said Thayne Shaffer, America First President and CEO.
As part of the expanded partnership, America First will create RSL-branded debit and credit cards that offer account holders with discounted tickets, concessions and merchandise, as well as special access to events.
There is a practice field about 1.5 miles south of the stadium that is already called America First Field. It was where the Utah Royals FC held its practices before the franchise was sold and moved to Kansas City. That field will now be referred to America First Training Grounds and is expected to receive some upgrades.
Rio Tinto will still be a sponsor of the club moving forward.
The stadium had Rio Tinto as its title sponsor since its opening in October 2008. The deal was set to expire in 2018, but in 2015 was extended to the end of 2020. There were talks with various local companies — including Visible Supply Chain Management — to take over as the naming right sponsor before the organization eventually partnered with AFCU.