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Real seeking a say in Salt Lake sports complex

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As Salt Lake City prepares to go forward with a sports complex that Real Salt Lake has agreed to help fund, the soccer team's owner wants to make sure he retains some control over the plans.

The 180-acre complex at about 2000 North between Redwood Road and Interstate 215 is largely being funded by a $15.3 million bond approved by city voters in 2003, with the understanding that another $7.5 million would come from private donations.

That money was found in the form of an agreement with the Major League Soccer team and was part of the public-private partnership approved by the Legislature in February that will build a Real stadium in Sandy.

Now, team owner Dave Checketts has sent Mayor Rocky Anderson a letter reiterating his desire to play a part in some of the park's decisions.

"As with any investment, we want to make sure we clearly understand all the details of how the money will be used, how the complex will be managed and how our partnership will work," Checketts wrote.

Among the elements he listed as wanting to forge an agreement on are the project's scope, a viable business plan, location and naming rights. Checketts also said he hopes one day the team will be able to practice at the complex.

"We are in continual discussions with Real Salt Lake," the city's community-development director, Rick Graham, told the City Council on Tuesday. "We are covering a lot of different issues, and we will continue to have those discussions and fully expect at the end of the day we have a very positive opportunity to make this work."

Among Real's concerns is that the scope of the project appears "to have been reduced from what we had originally anticipated." Graham said Tuesday that the number of soccer fields planned at the site had to be reduced.

The first phase of the complex would include 16 natural-turf soccer fields, two baseball diamonds, two softball diamonds, three "comfort stations" to include restrooms and concessions and more than 2,000 parking spaces. The plan will also include the expansion of the Jordan River Parkway Trail in the area.

The city hopes to add a $19 million second phase sometime in the future, adding eight synthetic-turf soccer fields, two more baseball diamonds, two more softball diamonds and possible championship stadiums for baseball, softball and soccer.

The city anticipates rugby and lacrosse could also be played at the site, and the hope is that it will be a regional draw, as well as a way to relieve pressure on the city's existing parks.

Not everyone, however, is cheering the plan. Jeff Salt, head of the Great Salt Lakekeeper watchdog group, has long opposed the complex, saying that it does not belong along the banks of the Jordan River.

Salt on Tuesday called the plan "outlandish" and said it would line the river with parking lots and ruin the natural environment. He said said his group may take its complaints to court.

Once the plan is ready to move forward, the city will start collecting increased property taxes to pay for the bonds. In 2003, it was estimated the tax would be an additional $7.75 yearly on a $175,000 home. Businesses would carry a heavier burden.

E-mail: dsmeath@desnews.com