NEW YORK // SANDY, Utah (Wednesday, January 5, 2022) – Major League Soccer’s Board of Governors unanimously approved the sale of Real Salt Lake and the club’s associated properties to David Blitzer and Ryan Smith’s Smith Entertainment Group (SEG), MLS Commissioner Don Garber announced today. Blitzer will serve as Governor for Real Salt Lake with SEG appointed to the alternate Governor role. This transaction includes Rio Tinto Stadium, Zions Bank Training Center, and RSL Academy in Herriman, Utah.
Blitzer adds Real Salt Lake as a central piece of an ever-expanding sports and entertainment portfolio, which includes teams in the National Basketball Association, National Hockey League, the English Premier League, and the German Bundesliga. His holdings also include leading sports and entertainment assets such as the Prudential Center and several other sports entities worldwide.
SEG, the investment entity led by Ryan Smith, adds Real Salt Lake to a portfolio that also includes the National Basketball Association's Utah Jazz and associated team properties. SEG is focused on sports, technology and entertainment investment opportunities impacting Utah, and Real Salt Lake is an integral piece of the community that has tremendous alignment with the Utah Jazz.
“The combination of David Blitzer and Ryan Smith’s SEG form a dream partnership for Real Salt Lake,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. “David and Ryan’s teams have become synonymous with how athletics and community intersect, as they have demonstrated leading world-class organizations outside of professional soccer. Both understand the tremendous value that sports teams bring to a community, and they are deeply committed to Utah. This is a proven ownership group that brings resources and experience to elevate every aspect of the RSL organization.”
Blitzer and SEG become the third ownership group in club history, acquiring teams and related properties from Dell Loy Hansen (2013-21), after the club was founded and owned by Dave Checketts (2004-13). The acquisition by Blitzer and Smith includes Real Salt Lake (MLS), Real Monarchs (MLS NEXT Pro), Rio Tinto Stadium and all related soccer assets in both Sandy and Herriman, including the Zions Bank Training Center and Zions Bank Stadium. Blitzer and Smith also obtain ownership of the RSL Academy and its local and regional youth affiliates.
“My family and I are thrilled to partner with Ryan Smith and his SEG team on the acquisition of Real Salt Lake,” David Blitzer said. “Ryan’s track record with Qualtrics as a technology innovator and leader in the state of Utah made his SEG group the ideal partner. Together, we look forward to leveraging our experiences to take Real Salt Lake to even greater heights.
“Real Salt Lake is a world-class club with an amazing fanbase, strong infrastructure and a longstanding commitment to the Utah community. We will work to build upon the legacy and tradition of Real Salt Lake by investing not only in the team and its facilities, but also in the communities our team serves. We have the opportunity to use Real Salt Lake’s unique platform to drive positive change on the pitch, in the local community and across Utah. We are excited and honored to be a part of what the future holds.”
“My wife Ashley and I are 100% committed to the State of Utah. As my partners and I looked to expand SEG, it was clear that Real Salt Lake is an amazing asset for Utah, exemplifies the way we want to invest and be involved here, and David Blitzer is the perfect partner," said Ryan Smith. “David has world-class soccer experience, is a person of integrity, and has a strong commitment to elevate the organizations and communities he is invested in. There is an incredible soccer community here in Utah from youth and outreach programs to the passionate RSL supporters and fans. We look forward to continuing to work with the region and state to do big things with professional sports.”
In addition to Blitzer and SEG, Arctos Sports Partners, the first institutional investor focused exclusively on taking minority stakes in professional sports franchises and leagues, joins the Real Salt Lake ownership group as a limited partner. To date, Arctos has made more than 20 investments across the big 5 North American Leagues and European Soccer leagues since its founding in 2019.
Following the MLS SuperDraft presented by adidas on Jan. 11, Real Salt Lake players report to preseason training Jan. 16 at the Zions Bank Training Center. The club returns to regular season action on Feb. 27 to kick off the 2022 campaign at Houston Dynamo FC. The following weekend, on Saturday, Mar. 5, the Claret-and-Cobalt return to Rio Tinto Stadium to host Seattle Sounders FC for the home opener. In 2021, Real Salt Lake had a 9-4-4 home record, set a new club mark for most consecutive home wins (seven), and advanced to the Western Conference Final.
2022 Season Tickets can be purchased at www.RSL.com/tickets, or by calling 844.Real.Tix.
David Blitzer, Ryan Smith and Commissioner Garber will be hosting a press conference at noon mountain time tomorrow. Journalists will be sent a Zoom link to participate.
About Real Salt Lake
Debuting in 2005, Real Salt Lake recently concluded its 17th Major League Soccer season. The Utah club advanced to the 2021 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs for the 11th time in the last 14 years.
The club's MLS Cup 2009 victory marked the state of Utah's only major professional championship in nearly 40 years, the title preceding an historic run to the 2010/11 CONCACAF Champions League Final. Buoyed by a passionate base boasting several thousand season ticket holders, RSL has enjoyed a prominent home-field advantage – posting a dominant 145-43-46 (Win-Loss-Draw) record across all competitions at home (2.06 points per game for a 0.771 win pct.) – since building its permanent Rio Tinto Stadium home in Sandy 13 years ago.
In 2015, the club expanded its development system with the addition of Real Monarchs SLC. The Monarchs boast a pair of titles in its brief history, as the 2017 USL regular-season champions, later winning the USL Final in 2019. For the 2022 season and beyond, Real Monarchs will compete in the newly-launched “MLS NEXT Pro” as part of a joint United States and Canada endeavor to complete the professional player pathway by connecting youth academies in MLS NEXT to first teams in Major League Soccer.
The entire RSL organization, which includes the RSL Academy’s U-15 and U-17 teams, calls the expansive Zions Bank Training Center in Herriman, Utah their daily training home. With five world-class grass fields, two indoor turf fields, a residential dormitory, the STEM-based RSL Academy High School and the 5,000-seat Zions Bank Stadium located on a 42-acre campus, Utah’s sporting future is bright.
Added in 2020 was the elite RSL Academy basketball program, already earning accolades internationally for its vision, mission, and accomplishments.
The RSL Community Foundation was established in 2016, created with the goals of being active in the community year-round, utilizing the popularity and reach of RSL and the Monarchs in promoting health and wellness in children throughout the region, engaging supporters of soccer to raise funds and volunteer time for various local initiatives.
About Smith Entertainment Group
Smith Entertainment Group (SEG) is a sports, technology and entertainment investment group focused primarily on the state of Utah. SEG’s portfolio includes the Utah Jazz (NBA), Real Salt Lake (MLS), Vivint Arena, Rio Tinto Stadium, the NBA G League Salt Lake City Stars, Real Monarchs (MLS NEXT Pro), management of the Salt Lake Bees, the Zone Sports Radio, and other Utah-centric business ventures.
About Major League Soccer
Headquartered in New York City, Major League Soccer – celebrating its 27th season in 2022 – features 29 clubs throughout the United States and Canada, including 2022 expansion team Charlotte FC and St. Louis City SC, which debuts in 2023. For more information about MLS, visit www.MLSsoccer.com.