Huntsman, Soccer Officials Vow to Make MLS Stadium Work

Huntsman, Soccer Officials Vow to Make MLS Stadium Work

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Richard Piatt ReportingGovernor Huntsman is throwing the state's support behind Major League soccer in Utah, but today he stopped short of pledging taxpayer money for a new stadium, instead suggesting a public-private partnership.

The plan for a permanent soccer only stadium is unfinished business right now. And today's pledge for a public-private partnership was as much about getting the stadium built as it was clearing the air between Real Salt Lake and state officials. Without specifics, the bottom line for the Governor is for major league soccer to survive in Utah with its own stadium.

Gov. Jon Huntsman, Jr.: "What we have here is a coalition of the willing, people who want to make this work."

The state's symbolic support for the stadium is a big deal because a bill sponsored by Senator Curt Bramble and passed by the Legislature eliminates a possible funding source for the stadium.

Senate Bill 184 prohibits the use of tax money to pay for, among other things, a stadium or arena. In this case it's Redevelopment Agency money, which would instead go to education under the bill. Even though the bill addressed larger issues with RDA money, it angered soccer fans, even sparking vandalism at Bramble's home.

Sen. Curt Bramble/(R) Provo: "The bill that came forward was not anti-soccer. There was some media spin interpreting it as that. The bill was pro-education."

But now financing for Real Salt Lake's stand-alone, professional soccer stadium is an uphill battle. The team's owner is aware of that both taxpayers and private investors will eventually expect a return on whatever investment they make in the stadium.

Dave Checketts, Owner, Real Salt Lake: "It takes a public private partnership. And in the interest of taxpayers, this has to be unique."

But it's similar to other major events, like the Delta Center and most of the 2002 Winter Olympic venues, which would not exist without public-private partnerships.

In the meantime, there is another battle facing Real Salt Lake, generating support for the team whose season opens April second. That ‘kickoff’ is against the Metrostars. Real Salt Lake's home opener is April 16th, at Rice Eccles Stadium against the Colorado rapids.

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