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Proposal: Real Salt Lake would pay for minor league stadium at Utah State Fairpark

Published: Thursday, July 31 2014 7:10 p.m. MDT

Updated: Friday, Aug. 1 2014 9:42 a.m. MDT

A rendering of proposed additions to the Utah State Fairpark.

Utah State Fairpark

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SALT LAKE CITY — Real Salt Lake is expected to present Utah State Fairpark officials with a proposal Friday to fully pay for up to an 8,000-seat soccer stadium at the central Salt Lake location, revitalizing the aging grounds and surrounding neighborhood.

"This would be an anchor tenant that would have new fans, new people coming to the fairgrounds. The community is all over this," said Michael Steele, executive director of the Utah State Fairpark. "I believe it would be a perfect fit."

Steele said consultants priced the construction of a sports stadium where the existing grandstand is located at somewhere between $10 million and $12 million.

"The devil is in the details," he said.

Officials confirmed the proposal Thursday to the Deseret News, with a formal announcement slated to be made Friday, according to Steele and Trey Fitzgerald, Real Salt Lake spokesman.

On Thursday, during a meeting and tour of the state fairgrounds by members of the Legislature's Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environmental Quality Appropriations Subcommittee, Steele said he had a breakfast meeting with Real Salt Lake officials in which the nexus of the Fairpark and a soccer future were discussed in exciting scenarios.

"(Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen) feels this area is underserved," Steele told the committee.

Steele said he believes the draw of Real Salt Lake — a sold-out game on a Wednesday night just this week that was televised — can spill over to the Fairpark, where the facility could be home to a minor league team, a women's team, a Hispanic soccer league, lacrosse and more.

The idea of a public-private venture soccer stadium involving Real Salt Lake and the Utah State Fairpark was revealed last week in a proposal that teemed with excitement but few details.

A multiphase study by architectural firm CRSA noted that a sports complex would be part of a bevy of improvements estimated at $47 million that are necessary for the Fairpark to be financially viable.

The stadium, combined with a completed rodeo grounds and convention center, would help turn the Fairpark into a 365-day-a-year venue rather than the sporadic offering of events that occur now.

Last year, RSL made a $7.5 million donation for Salt Lake City's construction of the Regional Athletic Complex, which includes 16 multipurpose fields and a stadium with 1,500 permanent seats surrounding an artificial turf field.

The $22.8 million facility will host regional tournaments and local sporting events starting at the end of summer in 2015.

Lawmakers have been struggling with the challenge of what to do with the state Fairpark and the notion of if the state fair should continue to be held at its current location.

The problem reached a new urgency in the last legislative session because of condemned barns that threatened to cancel the more than 100-year-old tradition.

Lawmakers came up with $3.5 million to cover renovation of the buildings and to carry the fair forward into this next staging Sept. 4-14.

Email: amyjoi@deseretnews.com, Twitter: amyjoi16

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