SANDY — In a bid to become the home of professional soccer in Utah, the Sandy City Council has set aside money for a study of residents' opinions about chasing a stadium for Real Salt Lake.

The council voted Tuesday night to allot $5,000 for a survey of residents with questions specifically about the possibility of hosting the soccer stadium.

Sandy is in a heated competition with Murray and Salt Lake City for the stadium, which would cost millions of dollars but conceivably bring in much more than that to communities hungry for an economic boost.

City Council members voted to allocate the money without spending it until they know if they have a better chance of a successful proposal.

"I think that we ought to have this money available — ready to go — but that we not spend it until we have a better feel as to whether we are a preferred site," said Randy Sant, economic development director for the city. "We ought to be ready to go until it happens."

The council voted unanimously to follow Sant's advice. The $5,000 will be drawn from a contingency fund from the fiscal year that ends in June.

But the survey could show a lack of community support for the stadium. And if that happens?

"That would probably be a factor in the discussions," said Ryan Mecham, spokesman for the city. "It could show there is a lot of support for doing this, and it could show that a lot of people don't know about it."

Real Salt Lake, a Major League Soccer expansion franchise, wants to play in its own stadium beginning in spring 2007, said Trey Fitz-Gerald, spokesman for the team. The team now plays its home games at 45,000-seat Rice-Eccles Stadium, the same spot where the University of Utah football team competes.

Murray Mayor Dan Snarr said his city does not need a survey to know it is the best place to host the stadium. Snarr believes the stadium would fit best near 4500 South and I-15 because of the site's proximity to light rail and a future commuter rail line, its central valley location and an abundance of undeveloped land.

"I'm obviously going to pitch Murray because I think it's going to be most successful there," Snarr said. "I have 200 acres of prime land that is way underutilized and way underdeveloped. I can bring back that whole area to life and create a synergism that no one can for a lot less money than everybody else."

Initially, downtown Salt Lake City and Murray were the strongest contenders for the stadium. Then, Sandy offered $20 million for the stadium, money that had been set aside for a parking structure at its Expo Center that drastically strengthens Sandy's late-to-the-game bid for the stadium. That move angered Salt Lake City, which had contributed $8 million to the same fund from which Sandy drew its $20 million for the Salt Palace expansion and Expo Center parking structure.

Now, Salt Lake City is trying to revive its bid for the stadium, which it first wanted at 600 South and Main Street, with the possibility of putting the stadium at the Utah State Fairpark.

The team wants a smaller, soccer-specific stadium, but that could cost up to $60 million. The team wants free land and $30 million in public funding, which it had hoped to get through an as-yet unscheduled bond election.

"We know that wherever we go that's where we'll be for the next 35 years or so," Fitz-Gerald said. "A suburban stadium site means that we could build 20 training fields around it, which is something that we couldn't do in downtown Salt Lake City because of land costs and available space."

Comment on this story A Deseret Morning News poll in November — before Sandy expressed its interest in the stadium — showed 22 percent of respondents favored Murray for the stadium site, 15 percent preferred downtown Salt Lake City and 37 percent didn't know where they wanted the stadium. Eight percent wanted the stadium in West Valley City or Magna, and 4 percent wanted the stadium in the southern part of the Salt Lake Valley. Dan Jones and Associates polled 313 people from Nov. 29-30.


E-mail: kswinyard@desnews.com