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Wednesday, July 26, 2006 Sports Economy   Volume 2 Issue 7  
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Funding of Major League Soccer Stadiums
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Funding of Major League Soccer Stadiums
by Jennifer Robinson, MPA

Over the past several months, Real Salt Lake has sought funding from Salt Lake County to finance a new soccer stadium. On Tuesday, July 11 the Salt Lake County Council rejected the proposed funding plan of $30 million in hotel tax to cover infrastructure costs for a soccer stadium. The team’s contract commits them to playing at the University of Utah’s Rice-Eccles Stadium through the 2007 season; however, it is now unclear whether Real will stay in Utah or move elsewhere after the season.

Major League Soccer (MLS), of which Real Salt Lake is one of twelve teams, is pushing to have all of its teams play in soccer specific stadiums. MLS argues that having teams own and operate their own stadiums results in advantages in scheduling, sponsorship, and revenue. Currently five MLS teams play in soccer-specific stadiums – the Columbus Crew, the LA Galaxy, Chivas USA, FC Dallas, and the Chicago Fire. The Colorado Rapids will be playing in their new stadium for the 2007 season, as will Toronto FC, an expansion team. Below is an explanation of how those stadiums were financed.

The first MLS stadium, built for the Columbus Crew, cost $28.5 million. The project was entirely privately funded (http://www.soccersiliconvalley.com/sites-mls.html). The stadium, considered a “no-frills” stadium, has a seating capacity of 22,555; and can be used for other events such as rugby, lacrosse, field hockey, football, and concerts.

The second soccer-specific stadium is part of the extensive Home Depot Center in Los Angeles and is home to two MLS teams: the LA Galaxy and Chivas USA. “The Home Depot Center is a 125-acre development in Carson, California, featuring state-of-the-art stadiums and facilities for soccer, tennis, track & field, cycling, lacrosse, rugby, volleyball, baseball, softball, basketball and other sports. Designated as an ‘Official U.S. Olympic Training Site,’ The Home Depot Center is the nation's most complete training facility for Olympic, amateur and professional athletes” (http://www.homedepotcenter.com/about_us/home.sps?iType=3911&icustompageid=6716). The Home Depot Center opened in 2003 at a cost of $150 million (Davis 2005). The entire project was developed and is operated by Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG).

Pizza Hut Park, home to FC Dallas, opened in 2006. It became the third soccer-specific stadium for MLS. The facility cost $80 million dollars. Hunt Sports Group, which owns FC Dallas, kicked in $25 million of the vast facility's $80 million price tag. The remainder of the costs for the complex, unique in its integration of spectator and participant assets, is split among the city of Frisco, the Frisco ISD (Frisco Independent School District) and Collin County” (Davis 2005).

The Chicago Fire completed a 20,000 seat stadium in 2006. Bridgeview, Illinois owns the $95 million stadium, which was financed by municipal bonds and will be used for concerts and other events (Chicago Tribune 2006). The stadium was recently named Toyota Stadium after Toyota signed a ten year agreement to be the stadium-name sponsor (Ziehm 2006). The first game in the new stadium was held on June 11, 2006.

Several other MLS teams have stadium projects in process. The Colorado Rapids stadium is expected to open its 20,000 seat stadium for the 2007 season. The facility, which includes the stadium, practice fields, and infrastructure improvements, cost $131 million. “Kroenke Sports and Commerce City will nearly split the cost of the project evenly with KSE and Commerce City providing roughly $65 million each” (http://www.coloradorapids.com/News/newsdetails.asp?ID=494). In November 2004 voters approved a ballot initiative that allows Commerce City to bond for $64 million dollars in sales tax revenue and possessory interest tax revenue bonds to fund mainly the off-site improvements surrounding the Prairie Gateway site (http://www.coloradorapids.com/news/newsdetails.asp?ID=741). Expansion team, Toronto FC, will be playing in a soccer-specific stadium for its opening season in 2007 (http://www.mlsnet.com/MLS/news/mls_news.jsp?ymd=20060614&content_id=62400&vkey=pr_mls&fext=.jsp).

In addition to Real Salt Lake, two other MLS teams are seeking stadiums. The New England Revolution, which currently plays at Gillette Stadium, is seeking a soccer-specific stadium (AP 2006). The Red Bulls are also considering leaving their NFL stadium and pursuing a soccer-specific home in New Jersey.

References

AP. 2006. MLS’ Revolution seeks soccer-only stadium. AP. June 15.

Chicago Tribune. 2006. Fire Stadium is Toyota Park. Chicago Tribune. June 10.

Davis, Steve. 2005. Pizza Hut Park part of MLS own goal. The Dallas Morning News. August 4.

Ziehm, Len. 2006. Fire’s home has a name – Toyota Park. Chicago Sun Times. June 10.

http://www.coloradorapids.com/News/newsdetails.asp?ID=494

http://www.coloradorapids.com/news/newsdetails.asp?ID=741

http://www.homedepotcenter.com/about_us/home.sps?iType=3911&icustompageid=6716

http://www.soccersiliconvalley.com/sites-mls.html

http://www.mlsnet.com/MLS/news/mls_news.jsp?ymd=20060614&content_id=62400&vkey=pr_mls&fext=.jsp


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