Sandy may fall short on stadium funding

Published: Sunday, Oct. 4 2015 4:09 p.m. MDT

 (Deseret Morning News graphic) (Deseret Morning News graphic)
Sandy leaders may not be able to fully hold up their end of a deal to fund a soccer stadium for Real Salt Lake.
The city had pledged $15 million to the project during negotiations in August but now might only be able to come up with $8 million or $9 million.
"We've told Real, 'We can only give you what we can. The rest is your problem,"' said Randy Sant, Sandy's economic-development director. His comments came Wednesday after Salt Lake County's Debt Review Committee held its first meeting to discuss Real's finances.
The only way Sandy can bring in the full amount pledged is if the total value of the project is at least $135 million. That way, the city could collect $15 million in tax-increment bonds, if all the taxing districts — including Jordan School District — were to pledge their tax-increment funding. District officials, however, say residents don't want them to do that.
The $135 million total value for the stadium project includes a hotel and broadcast studio. Team owner Dave Checketts said he would like to build those additional features one day, but for now, he wants local leaders to focus on funding the $110 million stadium.
"I've now brought my vision and dreams to: Let's just get a stadium built," Checketts said. "Let's worry about the other stuff later."
However, if the value of the project is $110 million, and Jordan School District opts out of contributing the district's share of property-tax dollars, Sandy could only come up with $8 or $9 million for the stadium project, Sant said.
Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan, meanwhile, said he will not ask the Legislature to come up with the rest of the money needed to fulfill the $15 million pledge if Jordan School District opts out or the total value of the project remains at $110 million through negotiations.
"I don't think the Legislature is going to give any of their tax money to this project," Dolan said. "They've made that clear from the very beginning."
Dolan also said he would not use proceeds from a possible change in the restaurant tax to fund the stadium. "We have other uses for that," including recreation facilities and a community arts center.
Real officials have said they will not ask any school district to help fund the stadium, but Sandy leaders are required by law to give the district the opportunity to opt in.
Nobody from the team or Sandy has officially asked Jordan School District to contribute, and the district has not taken an officials stance on the issue, district spokeswoman Melinda Colton said. However, parents and residents have said they don't want the district to spend money meant for children on soccer, she said.
"The board is very aware of the public opposition," Colton said. "The reality is, right now, we need this money. With growth like it is, we can't even afford to house the kids that are coming."
Sant said he will officially start asking the taxing entities to pledge their tax increment funding on March 1.
For Checketts, the Sandy piece of the stadium funding pie is the least of his worries. First, he must convince an independent consultant and the county's Debt Review Committee that investing $30 million in public funds is a worthy use of county tax dollars.
"This is like herding cats. You've got to get one thing done before moving on to the next problem," Checketts said.
The Debt Review Committee's meeting Wednesday was the first of three scheduled hearings in an attempt to to determine if the Major League Soccer franchise is on solid financial ground.
An independent consultant's report, from Economics Research Associates, is due back Thursday. Then a representative from the consulting firm is scheduled to present the report's findings to the Debt Review Committee on Friday.
On Monday, the committee will deliberate and then either give a status report or make a recommendation to the council the following day.
Checketts, meanwhile, reiterated his commitment to building a stadium in Sandy.
"This is where we want to be," he said. "This is the only place I want to own a team. We've demonstrated our viability. Now we need to move forward."

E-mail: ldethman@desnews.com

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