For Real, big-time soccer | ParkRecord.com

For Real, big-time soccer

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Some of coach Caro Caro’s soccer players at Park City High School have been among the best in the state, winners of championships and all-state honors.

But within weeks the Miners will not be the dominant soccer team in Park City. The professionals from Real Salt Lake, the Major League Soccer team in the Salt Lake Valley, will arrive in June, a result of an accord between City Hall and Real officials that makes Park City the team’s practice site.

Caro, who is one of the sport’s chief ambassadors in the area, says soccer is popular in Park City and Real’s choice of the city as a training site will widen the sport’s presence.

"In terms of boosting the soccer influence here, yeah, they can do that," Caro says, planning to take the high school team to watch Real practice as a way to instill in them the work ethic of professional soccer players.

City Hall and Real recently reached the deal, and the Park City Council approved it, in principle, on a 4-0 vote. City Councilman Roger Harlan was absent. There was little talk around Park City in the days before the vote, and the elected officials spent just a short time debating the agreement before the vote. The City Councilors are expected to finalize the deal on May 15.

It covers the period between May 15 and Nov. 1, with an extension for a second year possible. The team will train on the soccer fields at the Quinn’s Junction recreation complex between 9 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. The reserve team might play games at the complex, which holds three soccer fields built to international-competition standards.

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City Hall will allow Real to build about 3,100 square feet of temporary buildings at the site to house showers, lockers, a training room and a coaches’ office, a report submitted to the elected officials before the vote says.

"It’s a community, we think, is really crazy about soccer . . . the passion the folks show up there," says Garth Lagerwey, Real’s general manager.

Real joined Major League Soccer in 2005, and the team plays its games at Rice-Eccles Stadium at the University of Utah while it waits for a soccer stadium to be completed in Sandy. Neither facility has space for training, Lagerwey says, leading the team to scout for space elsewhere.

The 28-player team will normally practice up to five days a week, he predicts. The practices will be open to the public, and he says players might hold after-practice autograph sessions.

Lagerwey, who was a Major League Soccer goalie, remembers watching practices of the now-defunct North American Soccer League team in Chicago when he was growing up.

"When I was a kid, that was one of the coolest things I did," he says.

The agreement with Real advances City Hall’s long-running bid to make Park City an all-year sports community. It "highlights and shows our commitment to recreation," says Jon Weidenhamer, the City Hall official who wrote a favorable report submitted to Mayor Dana Williams and the City Council about the Real agreement.

Skiing, snowboarding and other Winter Olympic sports are popular in the winter, and Parkites and visitors choose from summertime options like mountain biking and running. A major softball tournament is held each year in Park City, drawing teams from points across the U.S.

Meanwhile, the United States Ski and Snowboard Association is based in Park City and is building a new headquarters and training center at Quinn’s Junction, near the recreation complex where Real will practice.

Athletes say training in Park City’s high altitude makes them more competitive when they are at lower elevations, a result of their bodies being acclimated to the lower oxygen content of the air at Park City’s elevation.

"Any professional sport team will tell you any advantage helps," Lagerwey says.

Financial inducements given

In its effort to make the Quinn’s Junction recreation complex the practice facility for Real Salt Lake, City Hall has offered the Major League Soccer team a package of financial inducements totaling almost $50,000.

According to a City Hall report, the local government waived $21,250 in fees to use the fields at Quinn’s Junction, provided the team with $7,350 in Racquet Club benefits and waived $750 in permitting fees.

The team is considering using the Racquet Club or a private-sector health club for its fitness programs, according to Jon Weidenhamer, who handles economic-development projects for the local government.

City Hall also will donate $20,000 worth of maintenance of the fields.

In his report, Weidenhamer, says the $21,250 in waived fees for using the fields has a minimal impact on City Hall’s finances since there are not other groups that would pay to use the fields at the same time as Real wants to practice on them.

In exchange, Real has also agreed to provide up to $3,500 worth of game tickets to the Racquet Club’s youth program, it will host a European professional team this summer at the Quinn’s Junction complex and the team will advertise Park City.

Real’s internal costs to use the recreation complex are about $90,000, Weidenhamer says.

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