"If we don't have a result by then [Aug. 12], I don't think I'll have any choice but to put the team up to the highest bidder," the Real Salt Lake owner told The Salt Lake Tribune's Gordon Monson during an interview on 1280 ''The Zone'' on Thursday night. "Let's consider that a deadline."
But stadium suitors, including developers in Utah County, are stepping up efforts to beat that deadline and keep the team in Utah.
Happy Valley may provide RSL a happy home - free from Salt Lake County politicians - now that Geneva Steel owners have offered free land for a stadium.
"Yes, there have been some preliminary discussions about the Geneva property," confirmed attorney Michael Hutchings, a partner in Sandy-based Anderson Development, which is cleaning up 1,700 acres to pave the way for development at the defunct steel mill on the shores of Utah Lake in Vineyard.
"We're businessmen; we see value there," Hutchings explained.
This Utah County bid has ties to House Speaker Greg Curtis, one of the architects of the plan to station a stadium in his Sandy hometown.
The Republican lawmaker works for Hutchings' law firm and represents Anderson Development on other projects.
But, while Hutchings is a part owner of the Geneva property, Curtis said Thursday he has no financial stake in the site and is not involved with the offer to RSL.
Still, Curtis knew weeks ago the proposition was coming. After Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon rejected the first Sandy proposal, Anderson Development owner Gerald Anderson approached Curtis about whether the team would be interested in Utah County.
Curtis said he didn't know - and then asked Anderson to hold off on the overture until the Salt Lake County Council voted on a rejiggered Sandy plan. Anderson agreed.
"My relationship with him was positive in the sense they agreed to wait," Curtis said, vowing that he wouldn't support his client gaining state money for a stadium deal.
"I'm committed to soccer in Utah. If the private sector, Mr. Anderson and [RSL owner] Checketts can make this work and it's not in Sandy, . . . it'd be great."
After Tuesday's 5-4 council vote quashed a Sandy stadium proposal, Anderson Development's Rondo Fehlberg - a former athletic director at Brigham Young University who has ties to Checketts - made the call. The pitch: Come to Vineyard, no charge.
"[Sandy Mayor] Tom Dolan saw great economic value" in the stadium project, Hutchings said. "We think he was right."
Dolan vowed the soccer stadium would spur a $650 million development on the 136 acres that surrounded the Sandy site at 9400 S. State Street. The team says it has investors willing to put up "in excess of a half-billion dollars." Hutchings said his property is ideal for a similar mega-development.
The land is served by three Interstate 15 offramps and commuter rail - if Utah County officials ever sign off on a sales tax increase to help fund it - will run right through the property.
"We're surprised [members of the Salt Lake County Council] didn't see value in it," Hutchings said.
Anderson owns more than 2,000 acres in Vineyard, the majority of which was acquired in November when the firm bought 1,700 acres of the now-defunct Geneva Steel at auction for nearly $47 million.
The development firm has been demolishing the former mill and cleaning environmental contamination from the site. Some of the lakefront property is ready for development now and the entire parcel is expected to be cleansed within five years. Anderson is eyeing offices, shops and condos mixed with existing industrial uses.
Glenn Webb, an RSL season-ticket holder and president of the fan club The Loyalists, said selling a stadium in Utah County may be tough at first. But "people will drive down that far to see BYU football."
"I would follow the team anywhere to see a soccer-specific stadium," the American Fork resident added. "We'd go to Ogden."
Curtis was surprised Checketts mentioned the Utah County offer during the RSL owner's conference call Thursday with reporters. Curtis suspects it's about "leverage" to show Salt Lake County that others are interested.
"There's going to be lots of things coming out of the woodwork here," Checketts said. "I've got to try to generate some excitement about them."
In a letter to season-ticket holders, Checketts said the team will "exhaust every effort to find a soccer-specific stadium option in the Salt Lake Valley."
During the conference call, he broached the idea of funding the stadium privately. But he quickly backed off, saying he was speaking out of frustration and he didn't think it was possible. He pointed out that the $70 million stadium being built for Chicago's Major League Soccer team is funded entirely by the public.
Checketts said he has made no decision on how to proceed.
"We've made a real commitment to the state of Utah. As of this moment, I want to say very clearly that's where I intend for this team to stay," Checketts told reporters.
He had hoped to watch Real Madrid star David Beckham turn over dirt at a ceremonial groundbreaking in Sandy when the Spanish team plays an exhibition game Aug. 12 against RSL. Beckham will be leaving his shovel behind. And Checketts doesn't know if he will seek to play another season at the University of Utah's Rice-Eccles Stadium. The team already is committed to playing its third season there next spring.
Checketts said Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson's proposal of a stadium at the Utah State Fairpark "has some legs" and "has to be considered." While he hasn't heard of a downtown proposal, he said it may work - even if RSL can't develop retail, housing and hotels around it.
As for Sandy, he said, "Well, Mayor Dolan pronounced it dead and went fishing. I don't know that anything is dead. Right now, I'm not sure I have the heart to pursue any of the alternatives that we've been going hard at, including Sandy. I just want to take a little time and take a deep breath and figure out what to do."
Checketts denied reports that he or his employees had been talking to investors in Rochester, N.Y., who want an MLS team. But the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported Thursday that the owner of the minor-league soccer team there said he had held preliminary discussions with Utah officials. And the MLS commissioner was quoted as saying he expects there to be negotiations between the two.
If RSL does move, Checketts won't go with it. "I will only own the team in Utah."