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Update: Governor kicks in his support for soccer stadium

Published March 17, 2005 10:23 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2005, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. declared himself a soccer fan Thursday morning and agreed to find a way to subsidize a Major League Soccer stadium for Real Salt Lake.

"I am thrilled to death with the prospect of Real calling Salt Lake City home," Huntsman said in a news conference at the Governor's Mansion. "We need to do everything we can to make sure that happens."

Huntsman said the state may kick in funds. More likely, state officials will find a new way for a city to help pay for the stadium. Huntsman said taxpayers could be paid back for their as-yet-undetermined contribution. He pointed to the 2002 Winter Games as a model taxpayers were reimbursed for funding construction of Olympic venues.



"If taxpayers do in fact have a role here, who's to say they won't be paid back over time?" Huntsman said.

RSL which will play its first couple of seasons at the University of Utah's Rice-Eccles Stadium starting next month wants to build a $60 million, 22,000-seat stadium. So far, taxpayers have been expected to pay half that, though team owner Dave Checketts said that is now up in the air.

The team wants to build a venue in Murray or downtown Salt Lake City. Huntsman didn't say which city he prefers the team play in. RSL officials would like to open the stadium in 2007, meaning it would have to break ground next year.

Checketts said he would hire a firm to study how other sports stadiums have been funded across the country to see if there are new public-private partnership models to follow. In Utah, the discussion has focused on tapping Redevelopment Agency money to buy land for the stadium. But that option appears off the table after the 2005 Legislature passed a bill forbidding the use of RDA money for sports stadiums. Huntsman is expected to sign the bill into law.

The team was talking about asking Salt Lake County taxpayers to bond to build the stadium. That funding mechanism may change as well because of Huntsman's announcement.

The governor said there is a "coalition of the willing" to find a funding solution. The "coalition" includes the governor and Sen. Curtis Bramble, R-Provo, who sponsored the RDA bill.

 

 

 

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