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August Miller, Deseret Morning News
Real Salt Lake owner Dave Checketts listens to a speech by Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan on Dec. 10 during a topping-off ceremony for the new $110 million soccer stadium that is being built in Sandy.

The push to find a corporate sponsor for Real Salt Lake's suburban stadium has hit full throttle.

The team said it has talked to various possible suitors who are interested in securing the naming rights for the soccer facility that is now under construction.

Real is building the $110 million stadium on 22 acres at 9400 S. State in Sandy. The team has private financing to pay for $65 million of the total. The remaining $45 million will come from public funds.

Recently, the team began running advertisements in numerous local and national magazines and newspapers in its campaign to attract a potential sponsor. An ad in the December 2007 issue of Utah CEO pitched the sponsorship as "an opportunity to make a big name for yourself."

"There are lots of irons in the fire and lots of discussions," Real vice chairman Dean Hawes said Thursday. "It's an important component of what we're doing, and we're out doing a lot of interviews and presentations."

He said the team is looking to partner with a sponsor for $1.5 million annually over the next 15 to 20 years.

In its 2006 financial statements that it provided to Salt Lake County, Real included a line item for the $1.5 million annually in its projected budget. Hawes said that while he is optimistic an agreement will be reached prior to the opening of the stadium next summer, the team is prepared to move forward with or without a sponsorship deal.

"You have founding partners, you have other sponsorship deals, you have tickets and all the other revenue streams," Hawes said.

Last November, Real became one of the first American sports franchises to display a sponsor's name on the front of their jerseys when the team struck a deal with sports supplement drink company XanGo. The agreement was for $4 million to $5 million over four years.

That same month, one of Utah's most famous sports venues changed its name after reaching a long-term naming-rights deal. Salt Lake City-based EnergySolutions paid an undisclosed amount to have its name and corporate logo adorn the outside of the city's downtown arena for the next decade. It had been known as the Delta Center since opening in 1991.

More recently, the owners of the E Center in West Valley City have tried for years to sell naming rights to a corporate sponsor. Colorado-based beer maker Coors had offered $8 million for the naming rights in 2000, but that deal was turned down by West Valley leaders. Since then, the venue has struggled to find another suitor, although the search is continuing.

Salt Lake City's other major sports venue, Franklin Covey Field, was the subject of much controversy in 1993 when the naming rights were given to Franklin Quest Corp. after donations were made by the company along with a group of company executives. At the time, critics argued that the one-time donation of $1.4 million was too little for the naming rights of the stadium.

What is the fair market value for corporate sponsorship of a major sports and entertainment facility? That would depend on the locale. Federal Express pays $4.5 million annually for the naming rights of the FedEx Forum in Memphis; Pepsi Center in Denver goes for $3.4 million annually; KeyArena in Seattle is $1 million per year; and Arco Arena in Sacramento is $750,000 annually.

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