Real Salt Lake pitches privately funded minor-league stadium on public fairgrounds land

The owners of Real Salt Lake are looking to build an 8,000-seat minor-league soccer stadium at the Utah State Fairpark, and say they will foot the entire $13 million bill themselves. Or, put another way, the owners of Real Salt Lake want a chunk of state land on which to build a minor-league soccer stadium, and for the state to foot the rest of the $80 million bill for renovating the Fairpark. Without more details about the proposed stadium lease and the rest of the Fairpark redo plans, we can’t really know for sure.

Either way, it’s interesting that RSL is looking to locate a minor-league USL affiliate in its home town, which unless I’m mistaken would be the first time an MLS team has attempted this. (There are several examples in baseball, including the successful Brooklyn Cyclones and the somewhat less successful Staten Island Yankees.) It seems tough to imagine that a USL team could be profitable enough to make a $13 million stadium pay off, but maybe when you add in the benefits of having your own developmental team within commuting distance? Either way, it’s a proposal that bears watching.

7 comments on “Real Salt Lake pitches privately funded minor-league stadium on public fairgrounds land

  1. Not the first time for a MLS team, the LA Galaxy have a team in the USL Pro called LA Galaxy II, albeit with no unique branding and sharing the StubHub Center (with most games for Los Dos on the track stadium).

  2. Thanks, forgot about the Galaxy II. Though given their attendance numbers, looks like I’m not the only one:

  3. Interesting. IIRC, the club sought a massive development at their Sandy site that included practice fields and assorted other facilities (like Colorado did). I don’t remember how much of that they got… beyond the $115m stadium with the funky roofline.

    Is there anything else out in Sandy that they could adapt for this? Or is this basically just another Checketts cash grab?

  4. RSL wants to build AND pay for a stadium that will bring people to the area year round.

    “The owners of Real Salt Lake want a chunk of state land on which to build a minor-league soccer stadium, and for the state to foot the rest of the $80 million bill for renovating the Fairpark.” IF someone else want the fair there why should RSL foot the bill for that? I understand that when making changes to the use of this land we want to make sure we do the right thing, but since the fair is already losing money and needs millions poured into it whether is stays or not, its clear that some sort of change is needed.

    John, for Rio Tinto Stadium they got $35 mil used for land, infrastructure, parking and other needs in the stadium area. This money came from TRT, Transient Room Tax, also known as hotel taxes which are paid by people staying in hotels. I’m sure that near by restaurant, parking facilities, hotels that house visiting teams and fans, employees of the stadium and their vendors etc feel like this was a worth while investment. I for one would probably be a little upset if there was little or know private investment in the current stadium, but there was nealy $75 Mil in private funding that went into the stadium, unlike the “E”/Maverick center which was 100% publicly funded, or Franklin Covey/Spring Mobile/Smith’s Ballpark wich was 93% publically funded….And of course Checkett’s doesn’t own the team, try to keep up.

  5. Actually, Cameron, the cost to renovate the fairpark is $47m according to the article linked. That includes many new attractions and upgrades to the existing multisport facilities, but no purpose built infrastructure for a stadium that someone else will control. So $30+m of the costs you’ve assigned to the public use facility is actually just another form of subsidy (and even the SLT acknowledges that the ‘remainder’ of the improvements imagined will be done over the next 20 years, not immediately).

    Put another way, to get the $13m “free” stadium from RSL, the taxpayers have to cough up an additional $30m or so… and that’s assuming that the infrastructure costs haven’t been heavily discounted in order to make the numbers look less bad. Even someone with very modest math skills can work out that RSL is not paying for ‘everything’ here.

    I did not say Checketts still owned the club. There is no reason the new ownership cannot try the same old shell game, which is just what they are doing. Please read more carefully.

    USL clubs often rent publicly owned facilities… RSL’s affiliate can and should do the same.

  6. …so… in order to avoid having to ‘dump $600k’ into the fairgrounds every few years, the Legislature wants to dump $50-80m into it ‘immediately’.

    And this is the case even though their own internal audits have revealed that poor management practices are a major contributor to the facility’s declining attendance and usage.

    Sigh. So I guess we are to take from this that the poor management practices are enshrined and immutable? That no enhancements to operation can even be considered?

    I see this alot with both local and county/state gov’ts. Rather than fix the root causes (together with some investment in improvements), we’ll just knock everything down and rebuild at massive cost. Then the same people who couldn’t effectively run the old facility will be charged with running the new…

  7. John, I scratched my head at the $80 mil figure that the article above stated at first, but the linked article breaks it down as “If the state decides to keep the current fairgrounds and operate a yearly fair there, then in addition to the $33 million it will take another $47 million to construct “new commercial facilities, rodeo grounds, an arena, retail venues, convention center and multi-sports arena,”” Whether the $12 Mil for a stadium is included in that 47 or not I don’t know. I’m sure that when the $80 is broken up there will be some sort of funding for multiple sources, I just went with 80 since that is what the above article had.

    I believe you did use the words “just another Checketts cash grab” so I feel I read that right. If you want to blame him for using public funding I can respect that, but don’t forget to lump in the late Larry Miller, whoever owned the Bees before him, and sports oweners with a lot more money than the millers could hope for around the country.

    Personally I don’t care if a stadium goes there or not (though as a soccer fan I like the idea) because I think they’ll play either way, but as you mentioned the choice seems to be dumping 600k a year or or dump 50-80m at once. Either way there is going to be some public money involved, even if they sell the whole thing off the state would need to come up with a some other place to hold the fair at some cost. Best case scenario other private groups want some sort of use that they will invest in so that public funding is at a minimum. I may be young and naive, but I compare it to when I bought a house…I paid for the house, but someone else paid to pave a road, install a water, gas, power, etc to my house, street lights, sidewalks and so on, although someone privately invested in the developement there was an element of public funding, we just have to hope that our politicians are reponsible about it (though seeing as how 97% of American’s don’t trust politicians I think no matter what they do they’ll screw it up.