The city will enter into "exclusive negotiations" with concert promoters this summer to hammer out a deal officials hope will result in the private construction of Utah's largest concert amphitheater.

Those negotiations will take place between the city and Utah-based United Concerts and Universal Concerts Inc., which is a subsidiary of Universal Studios.City Manager John Patterson said United and Universal have approached West Valley officials about purchasing 40 acres of city land southwest of the Westridge Golf Course and propose to use private capital to construct a 17,000- to 20,000-seat outdoor amphitheater there.

The city also will dicker with the two concert companies about leasing a chunk of adjoining property for concert event parking.

While the deal will hinge on the site meeting environmental and noise-control requirements, Patterson said preliminary studies indicate there should be no problems resolving those issues.

If the parties can come to an agreement, construction on the facility - dubbed "The Ridge" - should begin this fall and the site could host its first event some time next year.

The City Council cleared the way for the deal Thursday night by approving an agreement providing for a 90-day exclusive negotiating period "during which the parties agree they will only negotiate with each other."

That temporarily closes the door on further discussions with Magicworks West, which previously had approached West Valley officials about providing concerts for a city-funded amphitheater.

Patterson said construction of the facility with private funds "is a better deal" for the city, which already has committed many millions of dollars in lease revenue bonds recently to fund construction of the E Center, the Hale Centre Family Theater and a new community recreation center at Centennial Park.

At Magicworks, which has become a major player in the Utah entertainment industry, company officials were reported to be privately fuming over the city's change of direction and working on an offer of their own.

When the city announced plans to build the amphitheater on April 6, officials indicated Utah Grizzlies owners David Elmore and Donna Tuttle had entered into an agreement with Magicworks to promote the events.

The exclusive negotiations requirement, however, clearly gives the United-Universal partners the inside track on the amphitheater deal and Patterson said he is optimistic the parties can reach an agreement.

He said United Concerts president Jim McNeil, who also owns Smith's Tix, is one of the state's longest-running and best established concert promoters.

"And Universal Studios is a household name that represents quality entertainment," the city manager added.

Patterson said construction of the amphitheater will be another key step in helping West Valley City improve its public image and establishing the community's position as one of the premier entertainment centers in Utah.

"Each of these things - the E Center, the Hale theater and the amphitheater - brings more prestige and recognition to our community," he said.

"We want to invite people from throughout the region here to come take a new look at West Valley City," Patterson added. "We want to change the myth" and perception that West Valley is a center of high crime and low culture.