About Rio Tinto Stadium

In 2005 a soccer-specific stadium for the team was approved for Sandy, a suburb of Salt Lake City. However, funding for the stadium was still hard to come by. A vote in early 2006 struck down a funding proposal for the stadium. However, Tom Dolan, the mayor of Sandy, said that he would not give up on his fight to approve the proposal in Sandy. The funding plan was revised, but was struck down later in 2006 over disagreements in the appropriation of millions of hotel-tax dollars for a financially unproven sports franchise. The proposal for Sandy was declared “dead” by Real Salt Lake owner Dave Checketts at that point, putting the team’s future in doubt. Checketts said that he wanted the team to remain in Utah, but would sell it if a proposal was not put forward by August 12, 2006.

Parties from several cities, including Rochester, New York and St. Louis, Missouri, expressed interest in purchasing the franchise and moving it. Other stadium sites in the area were also proposed, including the Utah State Fairgrounds in Salt Lake City, and the tiny town of Vineyard, just west of Provo. Finally, on the very day Checketts had set as a deadline to have a stadium plan in place or decide to sell the team, and after months of up and down discussions with local municipalities, county, and state officials and a change in the funding structure, a tacit agreement between Checketts, Sandy City, and Salt Lake County was put in place, and Real Salt Lake announced that they would move forward with the construction of Real Salt Lake Stadium,[7] which would ultimately be named Rio Tinto Stadium. The groundbreaking, coinciding with the Xango Cup, Real’s match against international power Real Madrid, took place that afternoon featuring elected leaders, team officials, as well as the entire rosters of both Real Salt Lake and Real Madrid. On August 15, the deal was officially approved by the Salt Lake County Council.[8]

Rio Tinto Stadium sits at the base of the Wasatch Mountains.

The stadium plan encountered difficulties however after the Debt Review Committee of Salt Lake County voted against the stadium proposal 4–0 on January 26, 2007, citing what they saw as Real Salt Lake’s financial inviability as the reasoning behind the lack of support. County mayor Corroon concurred with the DRC and the stadium plan was effectively killed on January 29, 2007. In response Real Salt Lake’s owner announced the team would be sold and likely move out of the Salt Lake area after the 2007 season.[9]

The Sandy Stadium proposal was not completely dead, however: a new stadium proposal was made on February 2, that would divert 15 percent, roughly $2 million a year, of the county’s hotel taxes to the stadium project beginning in July until 2017.[10] Such a deal would have to have been made by February 9, or the deal would have been completely off.[11] The bill was passed by the State Senate.[12]

After Governor Huntsman made a move that would allow the team to remain in Salt Lake County: the Utah House approved House bill 1SHB38, by a 48–24 margin, effectively approving $35 million towards the development of Real Salt Lake’s new home. The governor was expected to sign the bill,[13] and ultimately did so.

Sandy City, along with the state of Utah and representatives of the team, finally came to an agreement regarding the placement of the Real stadium. The deal was shot down about a week prior to the agreement by the Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon saying it was too risky. However, Utah’s governor, Jon Huntsman, Jr. said that soccer was here to stay. The $110 million stadium was built in Sandy, a suburb of Salt Lake City. Rossetti’s California office was the architecture firm responsible for the design of the new stadium. The stadium’s opening date was set for October 9, 2008, when Real Salt Lake hosted the New York Red Bulls.[14]

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Name: Landon Freter
Phone: 801-727-2731
Email: [email protected]