When Salt Lake City residents voted in favor of a $15.3 million bond to build a soccer complex in 2003, the Utah Youth Soccer Association had 35,000 members. Sports such as lacrosse and rugby that use similar fields were in their infancy in Utah.
Now, with 53,000 kids playing in the UYSA alone, plus adult and high school soccer leagues and growing interest in lacrosse, every school field and city park open space that can be used for these sports is utilized, sometimes seven days a week. Parents often have to drive miles to find a piece of open grass where their kids can learn to play soccer.
The logjam is about to ease up.
After more than a decade of delay, progress is being made on Salt Lake City’s $22.8 million soccer complex between Interstate 215 and the Jordan River at 1900 W. 2200 North. Most of the electrical, water and drainage infrastructure is in place. Crews will begin to lay sod on the 16 fields in late August and the first events are scheduled in August 2015.
The facility’s first phase will include a stadium with 500 permanent seats and the capability to expand to 7,500 for a major event. The complex also will include six lighted fields; two rest-rooms; lighted parking areas; vending and concession area; a maintenance facility and a trailhead. Future development could include more soccer fields and some baseball diamonds if and when money becomes available.
"There is demand for this," said Rick Graham, Public Services Department director for Salt Lake City. "With all of these active and popular community things, the city feels it has an obligation as best it can to meet those needs."
Why will it have taken 12 years from the time voters passed the bond to the opening of a complex that was originally expected to include 25 soccer fields and eight baseball diamonds?
Part of the problem is that few pieces of open space remain in Salt Lake City. The 160-acre tract — about the size of an average 18-hole golf course — that was selected was on wetlands adjacent to the Jordan River.
After the city obtained the proper permits from the Army Corps of Engineers to mitigate for wetlands loss, environmental groups sued both the city and the federal agency. Construction began in 2010 but was stopped in 2011 when the Jordan River Restoration Network filed suit in 3rd District Court. This action sought to overturn the city council’s August 2010 rezone of the area.
The city eventually prevailed in court and now big earth movers are clearing and leveling the area.
The complex includes a three-acre wetland site and 23 acres of riparian protection along the Jordan River.
The city received $7.5 million from the Real Salt Lake soccer team as part of a deal to build Rio Tinto Stadium.
"This is an enormously and necessary thing, giving kids a chance to play," RSL general manager Garth Lagerway said, noting that more kids playing soccer translates into more kids becoming soccer fans.
He said the team has begun to establish a youth soccer footprint in the valley, recruiting players as young as 12 into a new, Salt Lake City-based location for its academy program, which is based in Arizona.
However, Real Salt Lake apparently has no special field privileges at the new soccer facility.
"There is no guarantee that they have for any uses or any space here," Graham said. "They have been an excellent partner."
RSL’s $7.5 million matching donation was a condition for issuing the bonds.
At last fall’s groundbreaking, RSL owner Dell Loy Hansen called the construction of the fields historic for Salt Lake and the region.
"Today, we are standing on a true field of dreams where 50,000 youth will play soccer on 16 fields," he said. "It’s been a rocky road to get here, but. ... we reaffirm that [$7.5 million] commitment."
Andrew Hiatt, UYSA CEO, said the facility will be the only one of its kind in the state.
"It is as professional as you can get," he said, adding his organization is already talking about holding national and regional championships at the site.Next Page >
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