SALT LAKE CITY — City officials scored a legal victory Friday in their desire to build an expansive soccer and sports complex after the Utah Supreme Court ruled it followed the law in a bonding initiative.
Hotly contested and challenged since on a number of fronts, the 2003 voter-approved bond for the Regional Athletic Complex allowed for $15.3 million in funding for the 142-acre facility in northwest Salt Lake City near the Jordan River.
Opponents, including environmental groups, challenged the bond election, resulting in a legal entanglement that has prevented the city from moving forward with the funding and beginning construction in earnest.
At a news conference Friday, that roadblock was deemed removed, with construction slated to begin as early as next spring. City officials expect that the 16 soccer fields and multipurpose center may be finished in 2014, with attractions that feature bleachers, artificial turf, scoreboards and concession areas.
“Today's ruling is a victory for the residents of our city, who approved this project years ago and whose wishes have been held up by a series of obstructionist tactics,” Mayor Ralph Becker said Friday. “The Utah Supreme Court today confirmed that our bond validation process complied with Utah law.”
Friday's ruling by the Utah Supreme Court upholds a district court decision on a Bond Validation Act petition filed by the city in 2011. In that unorthodox legal maneuver, the city was asking the district judge to rule in its favor — essentially suing its own residents to get legal closure on the bond issue.
“The Utah Supreme Court ruling is a comprehensive and meticulous decision,” said city attorney Ed Rutan. “Both (the Jordan River Restoration Network) and the city clearly had their day in court. The ruling confirms the city's belief that the bonds are valid and the process was fair.”
The city said it expects to move forward with issuing the bonds for financing the complex, which has been augmented with a $7.5 million gift from Real Salt Lake.