Fairpark option in play for Real

But 30 free acres in Vineyard on sidelines

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 31 2007 9:24 a.m. MST

The Salt Lake City Council will discuss today the Utah State Fairpark as an alternate site for the Real soccer stadium after the county snubbed Sandy plan.

Mike Terry, Deseret Morning News, KSL-TV Chopper 5

With Salt Lake County funding for a Sandy soccer stadium off the table, Salt Lake City officials are hoping they can reawaken interest in Real Salt Lake making its home in the capital city.

But they may have competition in Utah County.

The City Council plans an emergency work-session meeting this afternoon to "discuss the option of soccer in the Fairpark area."

Real owner Dave Checketts previously has passed over the idea of building the stadium at the Utah State Fairpark, on North Temple and 1000 West, in favor of a Sandy stadium, but Mayor Rocky Anderson and the City Council have been persistent.

"We think soccer's a good thing for Utah," Council Chairman Van Turner said. "We think it's a better thing for Salt Lake City."

Meanwhile, Anderson Geneva Inc., in Vineyard, Utah County, has re-offered 30 acres of former steel-plant land for a giant stadium, with promises to build without asking for money from Utah County taxpayers.

"We realize that Real Salt Lake is homeless," said Michael Hutchings, co-owner of Anderson Development. "We would try to build them a really nice home on the Geneva property in Utah County."

Real Salt Lake officials declined to comment Tuesday.

The Salt Lake City Council is not considering any specific funding proposals — none has been officially put forth — but will instead brainstorm ideas today.

The fairgrounds are owned by the state, so the using the site for a soccer stadium would need legislative approval. Speaking to KSL-Newsradio on Monday, Anderson called on Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. to push for lawmakers to lease the land to the team.

Huntsman spokesman Mike Mower said Tuesday that the governor has spoken with Checketts, but Mower would not say what they discussed. Mower said Huntsman has also met with other political leaders, whom he did not name, and "options were discussed, but there are no final proposals."

Neither Anderson nor his spokesman could be reached for comment Tuesday.

In June 2006, Anderson promoted the Fairpark idea by suggesting a number of incentives, including a share of the city's property taxes, some of the city's portion of hotel taxes from Salt Lake County and a ready fan base within walking distance of the site.

Turner said a Fairpark stadium could be tied in with the fair, and the amenities already at the park would complement the stadium.

Since the Fairpark idea was last offered to the team, county leaders have named a light-rail line on North Temple as a top priority, boosting Turner's conviction that a stadium there "would make good business sense."

Salt Lake City business leaders also like the idea. Salt Lake Chamber spokeswoman Natalie Gochnour said Chamber president Lane Beattie is "actively working to try to keep this alive. There's a recognition here that a Major League Soccer franchise and the benefit it brings to our residents is something we ought not let slip away."

She said the Chamber would support a Utah County site if it proved to be more viable — whatever it takes to keep the team in the area.

The Salt Lake City Council's work session is scheduled for 12:15 p.m. today in Room 326 of the City-County Building, 451 S. State Street. The discussion is listed as a tentative agenda item, open to the public, with a closed executive session to follow.

In Vineyard, Hutchings still sees the Utah County site as the most viable option.

"This truly is one of those win-win scenarios," he said. "We're talking about giving the land to the team — for free. I don't see a downside here."

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