It’s been a year since Dell Loy Hansen walked away from team operations after his racist remarks surfaced, but a Real Salt Lake sale still needs to be finalized.
Selling a major asset like an MLS team always takes a lot of time. and while plenty of names have been associated with RSL as a possible buyer–Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith, Harris Blitzer Sports Entertainment principal David Blitzer, NFL player J.J. Watt and player Jozy Altidore–talks have not progressed to anything solid. That’s led to a 2021 season with local management in place and plenty of league participation in big decisions. Attendance has been OK — by our reckoning, Real Salt Lake is averaging some 15,000 fans per match in reported attendance, some 17 percent below 2019’s numbers — but with the local supporters group sitting out the season in protest of Hansen’s remarks, the game atmosphere has been a little lacking.
A buyer would be taking over not only RSL but USL Championship’s Real Monarchs, Rio Tinto Stadium, the team training complex in Herriman and RSL Academy High School. (The NWSL’s Utah Royals ceased operations before the 2021 season.) If the market is any guide, a sale could yield $400 million or so. The most recent similar MLS transaction came in July, when the Wilf family and other investors closed on a purchase of Orlando City, Exploria Stadium, NWSL’s Orlando Pride and two training complexes. A sale price was not announced, but it was estimated as being between $400 and $450 million.
Still, despite issues posed by COVID-19 and some uncertainty about the short-term future of live sports, we could see a sale announced before the end of the year. Bringing in the likes of Smith or Blitzer as MLS owners certainly fits the league investor profile, and there’s a record of success in Real Salt Lake. From the Salt Lake Tribune:
The general feeling was when MLS took over the sale from Hansen in January, the process would be much faster. League Commissioner Don Garber said in April that he was optimistic the sale would get done by the end of 2021.
When asked recently, [interim president John Kimball] Kimball agreed with Garber’s timeline for a sale.
Garber and Kimball have both said in the past that the team will not move out of Utah. Garber said it during a news conference in December when he indicated there were “no plans whatsoever” to move RSL out of Salt Lake City. Kimball reiterated that in April, saying all the groups interested in the buying the team have no intentions of moving it. There is no current indication that that sentiment has changed.
Archival photo courtesy Real Salt Lake.