"Field of dreams" • Becker, RSL owner hail $22.8M project that was stalled by legal battles.
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Salt Lake City's Regional Athletic Complex has been a field of nothing more than dreams until Thursday, when the city finally went back to work on the facility approved by voters in 2003.
"It only took 10 years," quipped Mayor Ralph Becker at a ceremony near the planned 142-acre site in the city's northwest quadrant.
The $22.8 million project that includes 16 soccer fields is scheduled to open in summer 2015.
Construction began in 2010 but was stopped in 2011 when the Jordan River Restoration Network filed suit in 3rd District Court. The action sought to overturn the City Council's August 2010 rezone of the area near 2200 North along the Jordan River. Among other things, the environmental group said construction of the complex would cause "irreparable harm" to the Jordan River flood plain.
A second river network suit challenged the city's fees for additional public records.
But in December, the Utah Supreme Court ruled in favor of Salt Lake City, clearing the way for construction.
Almost a decade ago, voters approved $15.3 million in bonds for the complex. Those funds, along with a $7.5 million match from Real Salt Lake, were originally proposed to build 25 soccer fields and eight baseball diamonds. The project was later scaled back to 15 soccer fields seven under lights plus one championship field with seating for 2,000.
RSL's share of the funding was tied to a deal that allowed the soccer franchise to build Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy.
"This is a day many of us have been anticipating for years now," the mayor said. "Getting this project back online is a benchmark for our residents who approved it and for the numerous youth and adult teams who will show their skills on its fields."
Becker hailed the generosity of RSL owner Dell Loy Hansen. The two men were joined by a host of dignitaries, youth soccer players and RSL defender Kwame Watson-Siriboe, who gathered for the ceremony on a dust-blown bluff overlooking the site.
Hansen called the event historic for youth soccer in the Salt Lake area and the region.
"Today, we are standing on a true field of dreams where 50,000 youth will play soccer on 16 fields," he said. "It's been a rocky road to get here, but today we reaffirm that [$7.5 million] commitment."
City Councilman Carlton Christensen, whose district will be home to the facility, said it will transform youth sports along the Wasatch Front.
"To say I'm excited today is a tremendous understatement," he said. "We met in the courts of justice, now it's time for the courts of play."