Officials break ground on new athletic complex after overcoming legal hurdle

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SALT LAKE CITY --  City leaders broke ground for a new athletic complex in Salt Lake City Thursday after nearly a decade of legal challenges from environmentalists.

The Regional Athletic Complex will feature 16 soccer fields and four baseball fields, and it is anticipated it will be a soccer training ground for 80,000 local children. It is located near 2100 N Rose Park Lane.

Soccer player Carlos Mendoza, 14, said he is excited for the project to be finished.

“I think it’s going to be good because it’s close by to where I can just come here and play on the field,” he said.

The complex was made possible in part by Real Salt Lake. The Major League Soccer team donated $7.5 million in what they said they believe is an investment in future talent.

Garth Lagerwey, Real Salt Lake general manager, said their donation to the complex is part of a larger program.

“We launched an academy in Arizona, and so this is actually the second component of our youth development program,” he said.

Local mother Alma Mendoza said she thinks the complex will be good for children in the area.

“There’s too many kids in these neighborhoods on the west side, and we really don't have much,” she said.

Voters approved a $15.3 million bond for the project in 2003, and city planners broke ground in 2010. However, the project was stalled after environmental activists filed lawsuits that challenged the rezoning of the property. The Utah Supreme Court ruled in the city’s favor regarding construction of the project in December 2012.

Lagerwey said the complex is coming to fruition at a good time, as Major League Soccer is growing.

“The League is going to go to 24 teams by 2020, so that’s five more teams then we have right now,” he said. “We were 10 teams when RLS joined the league in 2005, so if you think in 15 years adding 14 teams, that's almost one a year for two decades.”

Carlos said he hopes to be a part of Major League Soccer’s growth.

“I try to work as hard as I can, try to be pro, ” he said.

Construction will begin on the complex in the fall, and it is expected to be completed by summer of 2015.

A rendering of the site plan can be seen below.

Image courtesy of Salt Lake City Council

Image courtesy of Salt Lake City Council