RSL Cup blog taking a long much needed break

I've been a fan of Real Salt Lake since it joined MLS and took to the field in 2005, and I've been a fan of MLS since it began in 1996.

However, over the past couple of years, and especially the last several months, I've began to see the ugly underbelly of this sport. Most likely it has always been there and I was just too naïve to see it, but I cannot not see it anymore.

I'm taking a much needed break from the sport of soccer. I may or may not be back. I may or may not update this blog, I don't know. It would be a shame since I've had it up and running for almost 10 years, but the fun I once had just isn't there any more.

Hopefully you fare better.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Monarchs say Fairpark deal is dead, team looking for new stadium location

(by Jasen Lee 2-26-15)

Any chance of salvaging what seemed like a mutually beneficial agreement to develop a new soccer stadium at the state fairgrounds is gone.

A top executive for the Real Monarchs soccer club said the team is moving on from that deal in search of a new site that will be suitable for the team's needs.

“We’re officially done with that deal,” Monarchs president Rob Zarkos said. “We closed the door on that (Wednesday).”

The tediousness of the political process moved far too slowly for the team to be able to meet its development needs, Zarkos said.

“When we originally talked, we thought we would be able to get into the ground and start developing, but that’s been completely blown out the window with the political process,” he said. “The process and timing just doesn’t work for what we need to do to get a stadium built and move our programs ahead.”

On Wednesday, Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen notified Utah State Fairpark administrators that the club has rescinded its January proposal for the stadium development at the fairgrounds.
Last month, Hansen announced his intention to build an $18 million, 8,000-seat stadium at the Fairpark, with the stadium to serve as the future home of the Real Monarchs.

In an effort to expedite the stadium's development, Hansen agreed to pay the entire cost of construction, contingent on the state of Utah extending the Fairpark's lease on the fairgrounds for an additional 40 years.

A Fairpark board member said the only major hurdle to construction of the new stadium was the extension of the lease, which is set to expire in 2017.

But legislative wrangling has caused the team to pull out of the deal, Zarkos said, noting that at the current pace, development would not be able to begin for at least another 18 months. The team hopes to begin construction on a facility later this summer.

Zarkos said the team would now focus on finding a new site to build a stadium to house the franchise, which begins play this season in the USL PRO division.

“We’ve had several different municipalities contact us, but we don’t have anything lined up,” he said. “We’re literally working by the hour trying to figure out what we’re going to do and where we’re going to go.”

The team would prefer a Salt Lake-area location for their stadium, Zarkos said. He voiced disappointment about the dissolution of the proposed Fairpark project, noting it was a seemingly ideal situation.

“It’s too bad and unfortunate that we just couldn’t make it work,” Zarkos said. “We’re just really looking at all options now.”

State lawmakers are still in the process of figuring out the lease issue. Until that matter is resolved, no other deal can formally take place at the Fairpark.

Meanwhile, the State Fairpark Corp. — an independent nonprofit public corporation created in the 2011 legislative session as an entity outside of state government to pursue profitable ventures for the site — will continue its search for a new project or consider options for relocating the state fair.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Real Monarchs Owner Dell Loy Hansen Notifies Utah State Fairpark Board of Directors of LOI Rescinsion

Club Entertaining Alternative Site Plans for 2016 Venue

( 2-25-15)

Real Monarchs / Real Salt Lake Owner Dell Loy Hansen today notified Utah State Fairpark Chairman of the Board, Roger Beattie, and the Fairpark’s Executive Director Michael Steele that the club has rescinded its January proposal for the stadium development at the Fairpark.

“I must convey our deepest gratitude to both Mr. Beattie, Mr. Steele, the Fairpark Board and countless others for their efforts in trying to make this happen,” said Hansen, who committed to the Fairpark nearly one month ago, pending a lease extension from the State for the property.

“Roger has been tireless in driving this project’s vision and Mike has pushed for decisions to take the Fairpark into a new era.  Unfortunately, the timing and process involved with this project no longer make the venue a viable option for the business plans regarding the Monarchs and ancillary properties.”

Back on January 24, Hansen and Beattie jointly unveiled a signed term sheet – contingent on the State of Utah extending the Utah State Fairpark Corporation’s lease on the Utah State Fairgrounds for an additional 40 years (the current lease expires in 2017) – for the construction of an $18 million, 8,000 seat stadium at the Utah State Fairpark, with the stadium to serve as the future home of the Real Monarchs SLC (USL) soccer team.  In an effort to expedite the stadium’s development, Mr. Hansen agreed to pay the entire cost of construction.

Slated to kick off in March of this year, Hansen formed the USL Monarchs as an elite lower-division professional squad which bridges the gap between Real Salt Lake of Major League Soccer and the club's highly-lauded academy at the Grande Sports complex in Arizona, which has produced a perennial pipeline of NCAA Division I players, young professionals and has consistently competed for numerous national championships at the U-18 and U-16 levels in recent years.

For the inaugural 2015 Monarchs season, the club will play a 28-game regular-season slate in the 12-team Western Conference, with additional participation in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The club will share Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy with MLS Real Salt Lake, while continuing to seek opportunity throughout the valley for a permanent Monarchs home.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Legislative showdown erupts over Fairpark, soccer stadium deal

(by Amy Joi O'Donoghue 2-16-15)

A political impasse at the Utah Legislature has thrown the possibility of a new $18 million minor league soccer stadium at the Utah State Fairpark into question.

Fair park officials need a lease from the state for the grounds and buildings that extends up to 50 years to provide certainty for the Real Monarchs and its owner, Dell Loy Hansen. The current lease expires in 2017, and has a 30-day cancellation notice.

Although the state agency in charge of the property — the Utah Division of Facilities and Construction Management — was authorized to enter into a lease for the grounds with the state fair park board in 2010, no action was taken.

Now, five years of inaction on the lease has boiled over into urgency, with the soccer deal looming.
Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, said his colleagues in the House are worried about a sweetheart deal.

"There seems to be some friction between the House and this proposal and I don't know why," he said. "Some think this is a sweetheart deal for the developer, but on the other hand this is the only deal that has come by in 25 years that did not expect the state to spend money."

Last week, he urged his colleagues on the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee to sign off on a letter to the executive branch and to leadership urging the lease be signed.

House members voted no, and the proposal for the letter died.

"I am at the height of my frustration now," Jenkins said. "As Forrest Gump said, 'Stupid is as stupid does.' The fact of the matter is they are convinced there is a better deal out there...but we are going to watch this deal walk away."

Representatives of Gov. Gary Herbert's office have not said why a long-term lease has not been signed for the Utah State Fairpark but Mike Steele, fair park director, said he's been told it's up to the Utah Legislature.

"When I met with the governor's staff, they said this was a policy issue." Steele said. "The House and the Senate need to decide which way the fair goes. Does the state invest here, does the state keep the fair or does it do something else? The executive branch is looking to the Legislature to make a policy decision on what happens to this institution."

On Friday, Herbert's office released a statement after a request by the media. “The governor appreciates the thoughtful proposal put forward by a local developer and looks forward to reviewing it further," Marty Carpenter, Herbert's spokesman, said.

"The governor and his staff are working with the Legislature to ensure the ultimate resolution for the State Fairpark has buy-in from both the legislative and executive branches. The State Fair will only be successful if both branches agree on the best path forward.”

Last month, Utah State Fairpark officials and Hansen announced they had signed a short-term agreement for the construction of an $18 million, 8,000-seat soccer stadium at the fair park.

Hansen's minor league soccer team, the Monarchs, will begin its inaugural season this year, and to expedite the stadium's construction, Hansen agreed to pay the entire cost for the stadium, rather than solicit help through a private-public partnership.

Under the provisions of the short-term arrangement, Real Monarchs would pay a guaranteed $3.3 million over 20 years for lease of the space at the park and split half the net parking revenues with the State Fairpark. In addition, the state fairpark would get use of the stadium for three weeks out of the year and guarantee a certain number of parking slots. The deal is good until April 23.

At the time the deal was announced, Lowell Peterson, the fair park's vice chairman of the board, said the only major hurdle to construction of the new stadium is the extension of the lease for 40 years. The current lease is set to expire in 2017, which Steele said is already interfering with his ability to book events.

"We have a convention that wants to book. We have a motorcycle group that wants to book a rally in July 2017, but we can't sign an agreement with them," Steele said. "Everything is shrouded in a cloud of uncertainty."

The Utah Legislature has been struggling with what to do with the State Fairpark site. Although the 11-day fair makes money, it is not enough to keep the entire facility operationally viable. A planned rodeo stadium was never completed, and buildings have fallen into disrepair because of decades of neglected maintenance.

A consultant's study looked at a variety of possible "best" uses for the site, reaching out to a number of stakeholder groups that include West side neighborhoods, potential developers, the Utah Farm Bureau and others.

The land use study concluded if the state wanted to move the state fair and replace the buildings at a comparable level, it would cost up to $160 million. To hang onto the facility would require an investment of $47 million long-term.

The state fair park corporation is an independent nonprofit public corporation created in the 2011 legislative session as an entity outside of state government so it could pursue profitable ventures for the site.

"Our committee cannot continue to subsidize this with general funds, which is the reason it was spun off. It was designed to be a self-sustaining operation," said Sen. Dave Hinkins, R-Orangeville and co-chair of the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environmental Quality Appropriations Subcommittee.

"We can't tell them they need to be stand alone and not allow them the flexibility to do that. We have got to give them the flexibility to make a decision and make it profitable so they aren't subsidized by the general fund."

Hinkins said the lease is being "held hostage" which frustrates him because he believes most lawmakers want a viable state fair to continue at its current location.

"We have all agreed we want to bring rural Utah here," he said. "We want to bring rural Utah here because the people who live in the cities are not going to go out to the farms. We want to showcase rural Utah in the metropolitan area."

Hansen, for his part, has resisted any temptation to get involved in the politics on the Hill, turning down lobbyist offers to shop the stadium before legislators.

"The proposal stands on its own merits," he said.

Rep. Stephen Handy, R-Layton, was one of the no-votes on the committee, even though he said he likes the idea of a soccer stadium at the fairgrounds.

"There are some internal problems. It is in a holding pattern. We are going to retain the state fair, but we were just told to put the brakes on this for now. It is one of those political things. It kinda stinks, but you just go with it temporarily."

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Fairgrounds Real Salt Lake soccer stadium deal on shaky ground in Capitol

(by Lee Davidson 2-12-15)

Action needed to allow Real Salt Lake to build a minor-league soccer stadium at the state fairgrounds in Salt Lake City took a step backward Thursday in the Legislature.

A Natural Resources budget committee voted down a proposal calling for the state to sign a 50-year lease with the Utah State Fairpark, the non-profit group that operates the state-owned fairgrounds. Its current lease expires in 2017.

The Fairpark needs the extension so it in turn can sign a 40-year lease with RSL to allow it to build, at the team's cost projected between $18 million and $23 million, an 8,000-seat arena for its minor-league Monarchs.

The Legislature already passed legislation in 2010 to allow up to a 50-year lease extension for the Fairpark, but it has never been issued. Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, asked the committee to send a letter to Gov. Gary Herbert asking that it be done now.

But some members worried that if a long-term stadium deal is signed, it could lock the state into making higher long-term subsidies of the State Fair and fairgrounds. Also, some worry the RSL deal skirts normal requirements to seek requests for proposals for the land from anyone who may be interested.

The Senate half of the committee approved Jenkins' proposal, but the House side voted it down — killing it for now.

Jenkins said lack of a lease "handicaps the State Fairpark, because every time someone comes there and wants to deal with them … their lease runs out in 2017. So why would I sign a lease with you?"

Jenkins said RSL has to field a minor-league soccer team next year. "If we choose to hold this thing up and go to requests for proposals … [the team] very well could just walk and leave this thing alone and go somewhere else. That's a very high probability."

Jenkins said that through the years, a variety of groups have had ideas for buildings or developments at the fairgrounds — but wanted the state to pay or bond for them.

"What makes this different is these guys [RSL] want to lease the property and they are going to build their own structure. That's what makes this so golden," he said. "In 50 years there's never been anything better."

But Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove, expressed doubts.

"The State Fairpark has struggled. That's no secret," Greene said. He questioned if allowing a long-term lease with RSL would then require the state "to continually subsidize the Fairpark operations at a much higher rate to protect the interest of the stadium."

Jenkins said the Legislature answered that in 2010 when it voted to allow up to a 50-year lease with the Fairpark, showing its long-term commitment then — even though state administrators have not yet signed it.

He said that puts the Fairpark in the tough situation of being told to go out and raise money, without the ability to do many deals for lack of that long-term lease.

Jenkins headed a working group appointed to look at the RSL and Fairpark leases. He said members were divided over worries about future subsidies, and whether the RSL deal is good enough and went through proper channels.

Fairpark officials have told lawmakers that Real Salt Lake is willing to pay a $10,000-a-year lease, and guarantee at least $100,000-a-year in parking revenue, which would help reduce the state's current $670,000-a-year subsidy of the fairgrounds.

Also, the Fairpark could use the stadium during the fair. It would have 5,000 more seats than the current concert venue there, which could bring in more revenue. Fairpark officials said that could also allow bringing in higher-quality talent.

After 40 years, the state would also gain ownership of the stadium, Jenkins said.

Friday, February 6, 2015

New York Godfather

Kreis surfaces in New York, still with the falcon eyes.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Agreement reached for $18M fairpark stadium

(by Morgan Jacobsen 1-26-15)

The fate of Utah's embattled state fairgrounds became more clear Monday with the agreement between the Utah State Fairpark and Real Salt Lake to build an $18 million minor league soccer stadium on the grounds.

The two parties have been considering a proposal to split the bill on a stadium since July, but in an effort to expedite development of the 8,000-seat facility, Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen agreed to pay the entire cost of construction.
The deal would be contingent on the state extending the Utah State Fairpark's lease on the fairgrounds, which expires in 2017, for an additional 40 years. If approved, the stadium would open next year.
"I'm a huge supporter of the state fair. It seems foolish to lose such a valuable resource because of a lack of year-round activity," Hansen said, adding that the stadium would be a "catalyst" for different parts of the fair to grow throughout the year.
Hansen said the stadium would offer tickets at lower prices and open up opportunities for members of Salt Lake City's west side to attend games. Attendance at Rio Tinto Stadium is only 12 percent Hispanic, but the new stadium would tailor more to that audience, he said.
"We'll fill an 8,000-seat stadium after two to three years," he said. "I have zero doubt of that."
The project includes additional improvements to the Fairpark, including a new entrance on North Temple, improved parking, signs and landscaping, bringing the estimated cost of construction to $23 million.
Real Salt Lake's minor league affiliate team, the Monarchs, would operate and maintain the stadium. In addition to Monarch games, the stadium would host events such as concerts, professional women's soccer, men's lacrosse and rugby, and community adult soccer games.
The Utah State Fair would have use of the facility for a three-week period before, during and after the fair.
In 1995, the Fairpark was privatized by the Legislature with the intent of making the fair profitable. Since then, the Utah State Fair Corp. has overseen fair operations, and the state Department of Facilities and Construction Management has been responsible for upkeep of the grounds.
Last summer, the state commissioned planning firm CRSA to determine what options would keep the Fairpark financially viable during the coming decades. Those options ranged from spending $33 million on necessary improvements to footing the $160 million bill to replace the Fairpark in kind.
Construction of the stadium will be part of an ongoing effort to improve the condition of other Fairpark facilities, many of which have fallen into disrepair, according to Roger Beattie, chairman of the Fairpark board.
"The new stadium will be a key element in the Fairpark's success for years to come and will be the first of several major new developments at the Fairpark," Beattie said, though it hasn't been determined officially what those developments will be.
It was unclear Monday when the Legislature will consider renewing the Fairpark lease. But Lowell Peterson, vice chairman of the Fairpark board, said he hopes lawmakers will realize the value that would be added to the Fairpark with the addition of the stadium.
"The stadium would be a huge step forward in revitalizing the entire Fairpark," Peterson said. "We urge the state to extend the … lease on the Fairpark so we can preserve the Fairpark for generations to come."