Real Salt Lake is waving the white flag on a soccer stadium in Sandy.
Unless the Salt Lake County Council can guarantee that a stadium funding plan will pass through without a veto from Mayor Peter Corroon, they don't want to play, according to a letter team owner Dave Checketts sent to council chairman Cort Ashton Friday.
In his letter, Checketts said the Sandy proposal "has now been turned down twice in your council, and the county mayor appears prepared to veto the current proposal, or any variations of it, without offering any new plan or any solution to make the project a reality." With that in mind, Checketts said, "We do not wish to expend any more of your valuable government time on an issue that appears unable to succeed."
Real CEO Dean Howes said there is no point moving forward if Corroon is just going to veto any plan.
"It seems evident that until this thing gets adjusted, the results are going to be the same," Howes told the Deseret Morning News on Friday.
Corroon said he hasn't made up his mind whether he would veto a funding proposal to build a stadium in Sandy. He did, however, say, "It is important that the council and our office work together on any proposal." If the County Council could get six votes on a funding plan, it would block Corroon from a possible veto.
But last week the council on a 5-4 vote rejected a proposal that would have given the city $30 million to build infrastructure for the Sandy stadium site.
The team doesn't have much time to make stadium funding work, as Checketts imposed an Aug. 12 make-or-break deadline. If a decision isn't made by then, Checketts said, he could sell the team, as he refuses to own the team anywhere but Utah.
"I will only own the team in Utah, period," Checketts said.
Howes said the team will "take a harder look at alternatives" after the Aug. 12 deadline, including selling the team and moving out of state. Local leaders and investors in Rochester, N.Y., and St. Louis have contacted Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber about buying the team, Garber told the Morning News.
With just four weeks before the drop-dead date, several cities are hatching plans to keep the team in-state. Howes said team officials are done actively pushing stadium funding plans and are "waiting for our community leaders and other private partners to bring us proposals that we can get our arms around and agree with and move forward on it."
But even with the support of Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem, Howes said details on a plan to build a stadium at the old Geneva Steel site are too scant to weigh in on the debate.
Anderson Geneva, a development company that purchased the Geneva Steel site for $46.8 million last November, offered up to 30 acres of free land on Wednesday to Real to build a stadium.
"I think they'll have to seriously look at it," said Michael Hutchings, co-owner of Anderson Geneva of Real officials. "Certainly now that we've offered this ground for free, it's an irresistible offer."
Valentine said he likes the idea of building a soccer stadium on the Utah County site especially since no additional tax dollars would be needed, thanks to a redevelopment district mechanism created in the 2006 legislative session.
While he's "not at the bargaining table and not pushing it," Valentine said using the so-called brownfield recovery site makes sense. "I think it's a pretty cool idea," he said. "I like it better than having to put taxpayer dollars into a deal."
The RDA is not set up yet, but local officials told Hutchings it would be "easy" to create one and get the project started. A bill recently passed by the Legislature would allow local municipalities to use RDA funds to revitalize inactive industrial sites.
With three freeway off-ramps serving the area, as well as other transportation options and new development in the works, Valentine said the Geneva site is "a really good place" for a stadium. Plus, he said, there would be a built-in fan base since "soccer is a big thing in our area."
The Senate leader said when he was approached recently by backers of the project, he asked what they needed from the state. He said he was told "Nothing." He got the same answer when he asked about taxes, because of the RDA.
The proposal may end up on the agenda for the Senate GOP caucus during Wednesday's interim session of the Legislature, Valentine said, depending on what happens between now and then with other pending options.