The most honest way to decide whether to use public funds for a new soccer stadium would be to let taxpayers vote on the matter. Although public votes are required only when general obligation bonds are concerned, taxpayers in Salt Lake County, and specifically in Sandy, will be affected by any of the plans currently under consideration.
But that isn't likely to happen. Real Salt Lake knows voters likely would reject using public money to enrich a private team owner. So they will search for ways to force people to pay, instead.
The latest plan, outlined broadly in this newspaper this week, would have Sandy going into debt to cover the extra costs to which county officials had objected. Those costs have to do with interest and other charges incurred while the county waits for a revenue stream from hotel room taxes, which won't be available for several years. The county eventually would pass that hotel tax money to the city so that it would bear the burden. City redevelopment agency money also might be used.
All of this is an attempt to satisfy County Mayor Peter Corroon, who has rejected plans for the county to contribute directly to the stadium for a number of solid reasons, including that he believes it would not serve the public's interests. Apparently, that isn't as big a concern for Sandy city officials.
Many county residents have wondered how Real Salt Lake owner Dave Checketts could buy the St. Louis Blues of the NHL and commit $7.5 million toward a 30-field youth soccer complex in the county and still claim he needs millions in public funds to help build his 20,000-seat stadium. The answer should be obvious. Paying the full cost of the stadium would not be a good business decision. A team's chances of becoming profitable (and Real is a long way from turning a profit) are greatly enhanced if taxpayers help build a facility.
Even if Sandy accepts the risk for the publicly funded portion of the stadium, taxpayers countywide would be losing their ability to use hotel taxes for their rightful purposes, which are to promote tourism and to cover the cost of providing services to visitors.
If county taxpayers are fine with that, give the money to the soccer team. In reality, however, polls show they aren't, which is why they won't ever get a say.