SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah’s professional soccer team, Real Salt Lake, has saved about $5 million over the last five years after its owner quietly persuaded the county to cut the team’s stadium property tax assessment by about half.
Rio Tinto Stadium’s original assessed value was $98.1 million in 2011, but dropped to $56.7 million after the county’s reduction in 2012, The Salt Lake Tribune reported Sunday.
The new value is closer in line to assessments for other pro sports stadiums in the area. But the quiet nature of the tax break has raised concerns.
Sandy and Salt Lake County officials said the tax cut resulted from rules that allow lowering the stadium’s taxable value because the team asserted that it was losing money, even though it has had among the top attendance in Major League Soccer.
Documents show that the team started seeking the tax cut in 2011, about two years after team owner Dell Loy Hansen, a politically connected real estate developer, had become part owner of the team with Dave Checketts.
“When Mr. Hansen became an owner, he came into our office and said, ‘I want you to take a look at the value you are putting on the stadium because I don’t think it’s worth that much,'” recalls Salt Lake County Assessor Kevin Jacobs, who at the time was chief deputy to then-Assessor Lee Gardner. “We assigned that to an appraiser. So that was just very straightforward.”
The city originally protested to the county about the tax cut. Nick Duerksen, economic development director for Sandy, wrote in 2011 that the city needed “the taxable value of the stadium to be at least $110 million” to fund required payments. He also wrote that the team “had agreed to invest at least $110 million in the land and construction of the stadium” to create such a tax valuation.
Hansen, however, met with Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan and managed to reverse city opposition.
Neither Hansen nor the team responded to the Tribune’s requests for comment.
Deputy Mayor Nicole Martin told the Tribune that Dolan was unavailable for an interview.