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Real Salt Lake gets its ‘Field of Dreams’

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Chuck: Just when Utah was about to be red-carded for letting professional soccer bolt the state, Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. morphed into Kevin Costner and helped the Legislature have a "Field of Dreams" epiphany to assure that RSL won't stand for Real St. Louis.

I have to give the boys and girls on The Hill credit for being tough negotiators, too. Because after pledging to soak unwitting tourists and conventioneers for $35 million to seal Real's new stadium deal, they refused owner Dave Checketts' other demand to rework the state's slogan to say "Soccer Elevated."

Amy: Let's be clear about the money situation. As I understand it, $20 million was already committed to the parking structure. So we're talking about an additional $15 million to buy the land to build the stadium on. With all that Real has promised, including more than $7 million in youth soccer programs, fields and camps, I just cannot fathom why this was even a difficult decision.

The government gives tax breaks and sometimes tax money to privately funded projects and companies ALL THE TIME without the weeping and wailing this provoked.

Chuck: Don't forget I'm a recovering soccer basher — every day is one more day of sobriety from soccer stereotyping. But after clipping my 17-year-old resident soccer nut for five bucks on last week's USA-Mexico soccer match, I might finally be warming to the sport.

Although for the love of Pele, will somebody tell them they need to score more goals? It's like watching an NFL game being quarterbacked by Rex Grossman AND Kyle Orton.

Amy: As much as I love soccer and this deal, I can't hide my disappointment at the posturing politicians and defensive attitude of Real brass.

Fewer temper tantrums and a little more personality, please.

Chuck: Checketts' tailored suits aside, I'm having trouble seeing him as anything other than the mutt who follows you home and then outlasts your better judgment until eventually he lays claim to prime real estate on your bed at night.

But I don't begrudge Rover. Rather, I salute his tenacity.

Amy: Checketts is nobody's lapdog. He's a visionary businessman who needs some serious public relations advice.

When he made himself available, he came across as an insightful, hard-working guy who loves sports and knows there are benefits to a community that go beyond ticket sales.

But whoever came up with his public relations strategy needs a new job.

First of all, he was MIA most of the time. And when he was around, the only thing that filtered down to us taxpayers was how if Utah didn't support Real, he'd take his team and go somewhere else. I kept waiting for his heart-felt expression of affection and commitment to this community. I wanted him to win hearts and minds WITHOUT strong-arming opponents.

Chuck: Less than two weeks ago, when everybody thought Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon had blown up the stadium deal, didn't our soccer baron indicate it was time to seek out greener FieldTurf?

Apparently "hasta" has a dual translation in Checketts-ese.

While admittedly conjecture on my part, I never believed Real was going anywhere except to Sandy City. Call me jaded (shocking, I know), but it felt like something was afoot because House Speaker Greg Curtis, who represents Sandy, where the stadium will be built, was surprisingly calm, cool and collected after Corroon lobbed his grenade.

It also seemed odd that Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan, never one to shy away from political sausage-making, feigned ignorance in recent days about a project destined for his zip code.

Amy: I believe Real was on the auction block, which in my mind only made Checketts look even less committed to this community.

I resented the threats mostly because those speeches didn't include how much Real brass wanted to stay in Utah. From players to the owner, I think they love being here, but that didn't get conveyed until the deal was done Thursday.

Chuck: Yep, Von Checketts played the roll of the wronged sports-team owner to the hilt — speaking largely through proxies and looking to gain leverage by shopping his team to the St. Louis suburbs or anywhere else with a predisposition to show him the money.

Amy: The way politicians fought and flip-flopped was the only thing more discouraging than Real's inability to grasp the power of public perception.

One example: Greg Curtis was talking about giving the Transient Room Tax money to TRAX in December because he felt the deal was too risky. Two months later he is being lauded as instrumental in keeping RSL here. Frankly, only the governor and Mayor Rocky Anderson have been up front — and accessible — about their support.

Chuck: At least Checketts generated positive headlines in St. Louis last week without moving his soccer team by announcing a reduction in ticket prices for his other professional franchise — the Blues of the NHL.

It seems everyone there has forgotten that after buying the Blues last spring, Checketts is the guy who raised ticket prices in the first place.

But then everyone here has seemingly forgotten that this Real stadium deal is basically the same funding package the Legislature passed on before Salt Lake County tried to make work. Or that polls in this newspaper have repeatedly shown the public opposed to public money being used for the project.

But we bought it anyway.

Every mutt has his day.

Amy: Sometimes that seemingly worthless dog turns out to be your most loyal companion, who despite your doubts actually has your best interest at heart.

Someday we'll look back on this and forget that many of us didn't want the stadium because we don't watch or play soccer. I know this because many of us didn't want the 2002 Olympics; we didn't want TRAX; we didn't want The Gateway. But just as we did in those cases, we'll reap the benefits of someone else's foresight and fortitude, and conveniently forget that we didn't want it.

And when that day comes, I hope people like you will give the mutt who made it possible his due.

E-mail: chuck@desnews.com; adonaldson@desnews.com