Soccer advocates pushing for a public-private partnership to fund a new Real Salt Lake soccer stadium had new hope Wednesday after meeting with state senators and the governor's office.
Out of those meetings state leaders and soccer advocates said they had agreed to work together to create a "new model" that could serve as an example for stadium-building in the future.
Major League Soccer officials, Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and Sen. Curtis Bramble the man who delivered a lethal blow to soccer advocates in Utah by pushing legislation banning Redevelopment Agency funds from paying for soccer stadiums were scheduled to make the announcement at a press conference at the Governor's Mansion today.
After meeting with RSL owner Dave Checketts and MLS Commissioner Don Garber, Bramble, R-Provo, said state leaders would work toward a "new and heretofore untried" public-private financing plan to pay for a new MLS soccer stadium.
Checketts has pledged to contribute $30 million in private funds for the stadium but has also pressed for a matching $30 million in public funds plus free land where the soccer stadium could be built.
After Wednesday's meetings Bramble said the group would be "stepping out of the box and exploring different approaches to public-private partnerships in building arenas."
State senators including Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, who run the Utah Taxpayers Association, told the MLS contingency they "would work with them and the governor's office in finding a possible solution."
"We may create an entirely new model here in Salt Lake City," Bramble said.
It was uncertain exactly how that new model would work or whether state funds or additional taxes could be used. In the past RSL has approached Salt Lake County leaders about holding a bond election where county voters could decide if they wanted to fund $30 million of stadium costs.
Soccer officials were similarly upbeat following their talks with state leaders.
Garber agreed the group "had explored a new model" of funding stadiums that could be used as an example for public-private stadium deals across the country.
As for where the stadium might go, Checketts said, "Murray has emerged as the favorite," and "it just may not be possible" to put the stadium downtown.
Salt Lake City and Murray have both provided potential sites for the stadium. Murray's offer is near State Street and 4500 South while Salt Lake City's proposal is on Block 22 near Main and 600 South. RSL officials have said they are looking at other locations as well.
Huntsman's spokeswoman Tammy Kikuchi said the governor was still considering whether he would veto Bramble's legislation, SB184, which would prohibit RDA funds from being used for soccer stadiums. That bill had all but killed Salt Lake City's stadium proposal because it was contingent on the city's RDA buying Block 22.
Former U.S. Sen. Jake Garn, who was with Huntsman all day Wednesday, has lobbied in favor of public funding for the stadium. He said he spoke to the governor Wednesday about Bramble's RDA bill and how it would affect soccer stadiums. Garn said Huntsman replied that those concerns would be nullified by today's announcement of the new stadium funding model.RSL will play its home games at the University of Utah's Rice-Eccles Stadium for its first two years or until it can get a new soccer-specific stadium built.