Real in talks with city officials for new stadium

December 11, 2006

SALT LAKE CITY -- Trying to persuade public officials that it deserves money for a new soccer stadium, Real Salt Lake bared its finances Monday, disclosing a 50 percent ownership by a Wall Street firm and predicting millions in revenue from non-sports events. The Major League Soccer team delivered nearly 50 pages to Salt Lake County, disappointed that a private business had to take such a step. "We make this release to demonstrate that we have absolutely nothing to hide from officials charged with protecting the taxpayers' best interests," chief executive Dean Howes said in a letter to county Mayor Peter Corroon. "We firmly believe that this is one of the best public-private partnerships ever created for a stadium project, anywhere in America," Howes said. Real is proposing a 20,000-seat stadium in Sandy, a Salt Lake City suburb. The team has been around for two seasons and plays home games at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. In August, Real executive Dave Checketts, international star David Beckham and several public officials put ceremonial shovels into the ground to celebrate the project, but there were no firm financial agreements at that time. Salt Lake County and Sandy would pay $45 million, or 41 percent, of the $110 million stadium. Real disclosed that ownership of the team will be split between Checketts' Sports Capital Partners and Whitehall, an arm of global financier Goldman Sachs, with SCP controlling the team's daily operations. In 2008, the first season in a new stadium, Real predicts it will average 15,400 fans at each game at $22.78 per ticket. Attendance will rise to 19,360 by 2013 when a ticket would cost $30.72, the team said. Real said revenue from many sources, including tickets, parking, food, merchandise and stadium naming rights, should reach $28 million by 2013, a 71 percent increase over 2008. Other financial opportunities not in the projections include money from TV broadcasts and other uses of the stadium. After interest, taxes and depreciation, Real doesn't expect to turn a profit until 2010, when it nets $88. By 2013, the team predicts it would clear $5.48 million. "We wouldn't put a number down we think we couldn't deliver," Howes said. "This is a good, solid business plan." He talked about the numbers just a few hours before Real announced a trade for soccer star Freddy Adu of D.C. United. Salt Lake County's chief administrative officer, Doug Willmore, said the Real report will be studied by a consulting firm, Economic Research Associates. A committee subsequently will make a recommendation on whether the county should help pay for the stadium. "This hits the high points," Willmore said of the report. "There are dozens of assumptions we'll have to test."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press