Soccer commissioner to plead case for Real stadium
Major League Soccer's commissioner will visit Salt Lake City this week to try to convince government and business leaders that the decade-old league is viable and its newest franchise - Real Salt Lake - deserves a publicly subsidized stadium.
One of Don Garber's first stops will be Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.'s office Wednesday.
Team CEO Dean Howes said Garber won't lobby the governor to veto a recently passed bill that eliminates a major source of funding for the proposed RSL venue. But Senate Bill 184, which forbids cities from using Redevelopment Agency money for sports stadiums, probably will be discussed.
"If the governor asks us, we would probably say we would love to have time to prove the viability of a stadium," Howes said Monday.
RSL will play its first two seasons, starting next month, at the University of Utah's Rice-Eccles Stadium. That will give the team time to show community support and persuade lawmakers to rescind the bill next session or perhaps find other stadium funding.
"Everyone's in agreement a stadium should be built," Howes said. "We'll work within whatever mechanism is appropriate and available."
The governor's spokeswoman said Huntsman is reviewing SB184. Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson wants him to veto it.
Garber, based in New York, also will discuss the league with members of the Salt Lake Chamber on Wednesday night at a Rice-Eccles Stadium reception.
"We want [Garber] to carry the message of how well the league is doing, that it's on a firm foundation. Although it's young, it's moving in the right direction," Howes said.
The league recently inked a sponsorship deal with Adidas and is looking at adding two more franchises to its 12-team roster. And RSL is hosting the U.S. Men's National Team World Cup Qualifier against Costa Rica in June at Rice-Eccles.
RSL wants to construct a 22,000-seat, soccer-specific stadium and has focused on Salt Lake City or Murray. The chosen city is expected either to buy the land for the stadium or pay for infrastructure.
SB184 hurts Salt Lake City's chances because the $20 million price tag for the block at 600 South and Main Street would require RDA money. Murray's prospects aren't affected because land near the 4500 South TRAX stop is cheaper and the city can use a different pot of money for its contribution. RSL also is open to other sites and other cities.
In addition, RSL hopes to persuade Salt Lake County voters to pass a $30 million bond to help build the $60 million venue. The team would pay the other half. Garber will chat with county Mayor Peter Corroon and County Council Chairman Michael Jensen.
Garber also will huddle with Sen. Curtis Bramble, R-Provo, who sponsored SB184. Bramble expects to discuss alternative ways for the team to obtain public money. Those alternatives include the state allocating money or authorizing a city to raise sales taxes.
Bramble said he isn't anti-soccer but wants to protect education funding. RDAs divert property taxes that normally would go to schools. "This was never meant to be something that would kill their proposal," he said. "The reports of soccer's demise may be premature."