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Salt Lake County plays ball, OKs a deal with Real

Corroon, Checketts still must iron out some final details

SHARE Salt Lake County plays ball, OKs a deal with Real

The rocky relationship between Real Salt Lake and Salt Lake County leaders may be on the mend.

After months of name-calling, sniping and endless meetings, Real Salt Lake owner Dave Checketts finally has a "road map" to follow in negotiations with Salt Lake County leaders over public funding for a soccer stadium.

The Salt Lake County Council voted Tuesday to support Mayor Peter Corroon's plan to give the team $55 million in subsidies. Now Corroon and Checketts must negotiate the fine print and come back to the council for final approval.

"This issue is probably the worst process since I've become mayor of Salt Lake County," Corroon said. "There's been insults, miscommunication, non-communication, some threats. But frankly, we're here. It's a good deal, and I feel comfortable with it."

County and Real officials have traded barbs throughout past stadium negotiations, with Checketts calling county brass "bush league" while Councilman Joe Hatch called Real a "bunch of chowder heads."

Now everyone is talking nice and both sides are working together to finalize details of a soccer stadium in Sandy.

"I'm glad saner heads have prevailed," Council Chairman Cort Ashton said. "I'm sure we've all made some comments we wish we could take back."

Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan is one of those people.

Just weeks ago, Dolan said the stadium deal was dead after the County Council voted against a $30 million stadium proposal. But Tuesday he stood before the council as members discussed the details on yet another funding proposal in Dolan's city.

"Call me Lazarus," Dolan said of the biblical character.

The deal currently under negotiation 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.

But there could be a snag in the hotel-room taxes part of the deal. The county wouldn't bond for that money until 2011 and 2015, and that would require a vote by the county leaders in office then.

"There is no way we can bind a future council into that," Councilman David Wilde said.

Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson also asked both the team and county to change the deal in the event Checketts decides to move the team out of state. The current proposal requires the team to pay the county $10 million if it moves within 30 years.

But Anderson's plan is to ask a judge for "injunctive relief," thus forcing the team to stay in the Beehive State.

"Instead of paying them $10 million . . . there would be an injunction that regardless of the amount you cannot leave," Anderson said. "It makes sense."

The county has turned down several funding plans in the past four months, but Corroon said what prompted him to give his stamp of approval on the latest deal is the fact the county would receive $27.5 million back in cash and in-kind contributions from Real. That money would come from parking and ticket revenue, youth soccer and a gift of $7.5 million to Salt Lake City from Real to build a soccer complex in the city.

Checketts said the deal needs to be finalized soon as his crews need to start major construction in October in order to have the stadium ready for the 2008 Major League Soccer season.

"I don't think anything is going to bring the deal down, it's simply a matter of making a deal," Checketts said. "We wouldn't have had the groundbreaking if it were not official. This was just a matter of settling the public funding issues."

E-mail: ldethman@desnews.com