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SANDY, Utah (AP) -- After all the wrangling over public money and a last-minute save by the state, construction is under way on Real Salt Lake's new soccer stadium.
Preliminary work at the site began Wednesday, just days before the Major League Soccer club opens its third season against D.C. United on Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
The University of Utah's football stadium will continue to be RSL's home until the project is completed next summer. Contractor Layton Turner Construction is building the $110 million stadium. Project manager Jack Greenland said he expects demolition to begin in earnest Monday and the frame for the 20,000 seat stadium should start rising in June. "That's when people will really start to see things happening," Greenland. "It's been a long time coming."
RSL and Salt Lake County spent more than a year trying to work out a deal to get $35 million in public money to help with construction costs for things like power and sewer lines.
The negotiations stalled repeatedly and County Mayor Peter Corroon said in January that the investment was too risky to funnel hotel-tax money into the project. RSL owner Dave Checketts was frustrated to the point of moving the team, but Republican Gov. Jon Huntsman and the state Legislature put together a last-minute deal to get the funding and keep RSL in Utah.
And the fight may not quite be over. Opponents have until Monday to gather almost 92,000 signatures of registered voters to get a referendum against the public funding on the November ballot.
RSL is still going ahead with the construction and has started a marketing campaign, including full-page newspaper ads, touting the public investment. "We're creating an asset on this land that is going to generate significant amounts of taxes, and taxes that go back to the schools," Checketts said during a tour of the stadium site Thursday. Checketts held a ceremonial groundbreaking in August with soccer superstar David Beckham, but the funding negotiations unraveled and no actual construction took place. Checketts also said beer will be sold at the stadium in the suburb about 15 miles south of downtown. He said there is also interest from a developer in creating a shopping and dining district around the stadium.
Information from: Deseret Morning News.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)