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By ESPN Staff

Utah House OKs plan to help pay for Salt Lake stadium

SALT LAKE CITY -- Hoping to keep a team in Major League Soccer's smallest market, the Utah House endorsed a $35 million plan Thursday that pays for a parking garage and land for a stadium in Sandy, ending days of debate over whether the project deserves public aid.

In response, Real Salt Lake owner Dave Checketts said the franchise, now entering its third season, will stay in Utah.

"Real Salt Lake is a permanent part of this Utah community. This really is a dream come true," he said at a news conference outside the Capitol.

Before the vote, Gov. Jon Huntsman urged lawmakers to get aboard and help finance the $110 million project, warning that Utah's image was at stake.

"I think we need to show there is a level of collaboration between public and private here," he said. "There isn't a single facility in the country that is of this size that has been done without this kind of public-private partnership."

The team plays at the University of Utah's football stadium, but the lease expires after the 2007 season. Without a 20,000-seat, soccer-only stadium, Checketts insisted he would have to sell the team.

"It was one of the all-time roller coasters. I've never been on one to equal it," he said.

The House voted 48-24 to direct $15 million in hotel and rental-car taxes to buy land in Sandy for a stadium. Another $20 million would build a parking garage near the site. Sandy has already pledged $15 million for project.

In August, Checketts and public officials held a ceremonial groundbreaking in Sandy without having a firm financial agreement.

He was counting on $30 million in hotel taxes from Salt Lake County, but mayor Peter Corroon retreated on Jan. 29, saying it was a "gamble." A consultant and a county committee said revenue projections were too optimistic.

Real had set a Friday deadline for Utah officials to come up with another plan.