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Ground is broken, but deal’s not done

Real owner still hasn’t OK’d Salt Lake County’s offer

SHARE Ground is broken, but deal’s not done

Step one: Break ground on a new stadium with international soccer superstar David Beckham.

Step two: Figure out how to pay for the stadium.

Real Salt Lake owner Dave Checketts hasn't accepted Salt Lake County's offer of $55 million in public subsidies to help build a soccer stadium, despite the team's breaking ground on the 42-acre project Saturday.

The team is still negotiating with the county over several points of Mayor Peter Corroon's proposal, including how the team would be able to spend hotel-room tax revenue. Even so, the County Council is expected to vote today to support Corroon's funding proposal, albeit with a few minor clarifications.

"It's not absolutely done; it's still a big act of faith," Checketts said after Saturday's groundbreaking. "I just thought it was too important to this state. I'm not going to let it go, despite the fact I'm still not there with the county.

"I have to at some point put my trust in them and say, 'We'll get there.'"

County leaders had turned down several funding requests over the past few months but finally came to a consensus Friday and sent the team a proposal that Corroon and at least five members of the County Council said they endorsed.

That proposal would give the team $20 million in county hotel-room taxes to help build infrastructure at the stadium, with Sandy contributing $15 million in redevelopment agency funds. The team would also share a $20 million parking garage with the county-owned South Towne Exposition Center.

"This is our offer, take it or leave it," Councilman Jim Bradley said. He called it a "pretty good deal" because "it does protect the taxpayer." However, Bradley said he will not vote to support Corroon's plan because he thinks government should not be funding private business.

Councilwoman Jenny Wilson was at the team's reception at La Caille restaurant Friday night when Checketts made his late-night announcement that the team would break ground on a Sandy stadium the following day.

That move made her believe Checketts had agreed to Corroon's terms. But the soccer stadium negotiations were far from over.

"I think they jumped the gun," Wilson said. "I don't know if it was just the emotion of having Real Madrid here and the desire of having David Beckham involved, or it was just a negotiating tactic."

Real officials want to be able to use hotel-room tax dollars to purchase land underneath the stadium. But Corroon's original proposal specifically restricts the team from using that revenue on land underneath the stadium, hotel or broadcast studio.

Now Corroon has changed his mind, and he said Monday that he would be willing to use hotel-tax dollars to purchase land underneath the stadium if the team paid the county for a fair-market value lease.

"As long as there are no legal issues, I see no problem with that," Corroon said. However, he still doesn't want hotel-tax money to pay for land beneath the hotel or broadcast studio. That money can be used for public improvements — like sidewalks and sewer lines — and land under the stadium.

Councilman Randy Horiuchi said he is confident the county can come to an agreement with the team and secure a deal that will work for everyone.

"We'll work all those out," Horiuchi said. "There aren't any deal breakers. We have a lot of things we need to work on and massage, but we'll get this thing done."

E-mail: ldethman@desnews.com