Stadium rising: $110 million project pushing for September opening

Published: Friday, Jan. 18 2008 12:54 a.m. MST

Construction workers aren't letting winter get in the way of building Real Salt Lake's soccer stadium, which is more than halfway done.

Michael Brandy, Deseret Morning News

SANDY — The only roar soccer fans will hear these days at Real Stadium is the whir and spark of welding crews, the bellow of massive propane heaters and the scraping of heavy construction tools. But on a tour of the stadium's construction site, officials told the Deseret Morning News that the cheers of the crowd aren't too far away.

After all, they say, the $110 million project is more than halfway complete.

The final pieces of structural steel have been placed, making visible the final shape and size of the stadium. Two-foot-wide gray and beige bricks are also being laid, and the shapes of rooms and suites are becoming apparent.

"If you're driving on I-15, if you're driving on State Street, you're seeing a massive skeleton of what will be in eight to nine months from now one of the premier sporting venues in the state," said Trey Fitz-Gerald, spokesman for the team. "One of our goals is to make sure that no detail is forgotten."

Leaders with Real Salt Lake, the state's Major League Soccer team, are so confident of the planned opening in mid-September that the team has scheduled a national television broadcast on ESPN from there for Oct. 9, said Sandy economic development director Randy Sant. Real Salt Lake plans to bring in big-name entertainers for the event, but no contracts have been signed, officials said.

The first seats — all of which will be of the tip-up variety — are scheduled to be bolted into place April 1. Other seats will arrive and be placed over the next three months, officials said. Most of the seats are red, but others are black, white and blue — the team's colors. There will be 21,000 permanent seats.

Construction crews are working on welding steel odds andends and pouring concrete. Soon, electronic message boards equipped with LEDs will be put up throughout the stadium. When the time comes, they will flash sponsor messages to the crowds. The stadium will also be equipped with massive screens that will show close-up views of stadium events.

The structure will hold 21,000 fewer soccer fans than the University of Utah's Rice-Eccles Stadium, where RSL has played since coming to Utah in 2005. However, the new stadium will have an intimate feel and is expected to delight die-hard fans with features such as a center-field player entrance tunnel and ground-level seats, Fitz-Gerald said.

"We're trying to achieve a level of intimacy here so (the fans) really feel like they're part of the game" he said.

Planned features

Plans call for a series of "Spanish steps" resembling those in Trafalgar Square in London and ticket booths in several spots. The stairs, to be built on the stadium's northwest corner, are meant to be a natural meeting place, Fitz-Gerald said.

The stadium will also have a club on its second level with the feel of an indoor/outdoor restaurant; various rooms for media; and suites with massive windows overlooking the valley and offering views of the Oquirrh mountain range. The walls of the rooms were recently being nailed up and wired for electricity and the mountain view was visible through spaces between steel girders.

Construction crews also have been busy placing catwalks on top of the stadium, with lights powerful enough to accommodate television needs.

For outdoor concerts and other events, a removable stage will be constructed on the south end of the stadium and additional seats will be set up on the field. The stadium then will be able to accommodate 24,000 people.

RSL and Sandy have started negotiations with local entities such as the Jordan School District concerning stadium use, Fitz-Gerald said. High school soccer, outdoor hockey and football games may be played there, and schools could use the space for graduation ceremonies. Whether the school district will be charged for such events has not yet been decided, Fitz-Gerald said.

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