Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Big Sandy stadium price climbs, seating shrinks

Real (just south of Salt Lake) Sandy's new soccer stadium seems to be hitting a few snags along the way to ground breaking. First the cost is climbing. The original budget was around $60 million, however the price tag has now reached $145 million. This new figure does include some additions to the "soccer town" such as an adjacent hotel and a broadcast studio. Still, the jump in price has a few folks scratching their noggins.

The other point to look at here is the fact that they are scaling down the size of the proposed stadium from 25 to 20,000. The team feels that the market in Utah is just not strong enough to support the extra 5,000 seats. However, one has to wonder if this might prevent the stadium from host international games or traveling club events. Just for a comparison, here are the current sitting capacities of various MLS stadiums:

Columbus Crew Stadium: 22,555
Home Depot Center: 27,000
Pizza Hut Park: 21,193
Bridgeview (opening this summer): 20,000

As you can see, the new seating capacity will put it in last place, tied with the new field in the Chicago area. Since traveling teams come to America to make money, it is not that difficult to think that they might want to go to stadiums that can hold more people. By scaling back, RSL might be handicapping their ability to get events such as these.

However, the trade off is they have fewer seats to sell for MLS matches, thus a greater chance of making money off the matches. I can't image that those extra 5,000 seats would be filled that often during the team's regular season, thus it will cut into their profit to have them around.

On the funding side of things, RSL has asked for $45 million in help from the county. The funding for this would come from removing the sunset clause from a 1.25% hotel tax that was approved last year by the state. The clause had called for .25% of the tax to set in 4 years with the other 1% going away after 10 years. RSL spokesman Josh Ewing said, "It fits with what [team owner] Dave Checketts has said, that we will not create a new burden on the Utah taxpayer. It's not a new or increased tax. It's a tax that's already implemented and the sunset would be removed." It's an interesting approach to the idea.

All this money would go to buying the land, improving infrastructure and providing parking, while RSL would cover the $70 million to build the stadium.

So it looks like RSL's stadium hinges on the Republican controlled state house to get rid of a sunset clause on a tax. I point this out not to get into the politics of Utah, but just to illustrate how difficult of a situation this might just be. Asking the city to cover expenses related to infrastructure and help with the land while not asking them to build the stadium makes sense to me. I feel this story is going to get a lot more interesting the longer it goes on.



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