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Utah State Fairpark officials urged lawmakers Friday to approve legislation needed to allow Real Salt Lake to build an 8,000-seat minor league soccer stadium there, saying it would greatly benefit both the fairgrounds and the team.
The proposed stadium deal would require legislative OK to avoid an otherwise legally required and possibly lengthy request for proposals from anyone who may be interested in developing the stadium site.
Real Salt Lake seeks a 40-year lease to ensure a return on its investment in building the stadium for its new minor-league Monarchs. But the Fairpark a nonprofit group that operates the state-owned fairgrounds said its current lease with the state expires in 2017, so it needs a 40-year extension itself to allow the deal.
Members of a legislative budget committee on Friday asked if it is wise to offer such a long lease extension for the aging fairgrounds, which needs tens of millions of dollars in refurbishing and has a current shortage of parking.
"We need to make sure the state is treated fairly," said Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, co-chairman of the committee.
Michael Steele, executive director of the Fairpark, said studies have shown it would be far cheaper to keep the fairgrounds at its present westside Salt Lake City site and refurbish it than to relocate it but the state itself needs to make that decision soon.
Real Salt Lake is willing to pay a $10,000 a year lease, Steele said, and guarantee at least $100,000 a year in parking, which would help reduce the state's current $670,000-a-year subsidy of the Fairpark.
Also, Steele said the Fairpark could use the stadium during the fair. It would have 5,000 more seats than the concert venue there, which could bring in more revenue.
"We could have better shows and hire better quality talent" with that bigger venue, Steele said.
The committee took no action Friday, and merely heard a report from the Fairpark as part of a budget review.