A quarter-century after it was ‘born,’ Taylorsville City completes its nearly $50 million ‘facelift’ in 2021Jan 03, 2022 04:20PM ● By Carl Fauver
On a brisk October evening last fall, Taylorsville City officials—current and past—finally put the finishing touches on a five-year facelift project outside city hall, when they cut the ribbon on their new $3.5 million Centennial Plaza. (Carl Fauver/City Journals)
That famous line from the 1989 film “Field of Dreams” proved true (OK, “Hollywood true”) when Kevin Costner transformed an Iowa cornfield into a baseball diamond.
And perhaps more than anything else, over the past five years, that single line appears to have motivated both Salt Lake County and Taylorsville City officials, as nearly $50 million was spent constructing the Mid-Valley Performing Arts Center (MVPAC, southeast of city hall) and Centennial Plaza (southwest of city hall).
“Our Centennial Plaza is everything we thought it would be and something Taylorsville residents will be able to visit and enjoy for years to come,” Mayor Kristie Overson said Oct. 15, just prior to the early evening ribbon cutting. “This will be a wonderful place for movies in the park, a farmers market, outdoor arts performances and many other activities. We are overjoyed with how it turned out.”
That fall ribbon cutting was the second in 2021. The first occurred just five months earlier, on May 26 and barely 100 yards from the plaza ribbon cutting inside the new $40 million MVPAC.
“We are so pleased to open the new Mid-Valley Performing Arts Center today,” Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson told dignitaries and media members that day. “This new venue is an important cultural asset in Salt Lake County and demonstrates our ongoing commitment to supporting the arts and enhancing the quality of life in our valley. Taylorsville deserves a site like this.”
Overson addressed that May gathering as well.
“It has been a thrill to watch this beautiful venue go up right outside our windows on the Taylorsville City Hall campus,” she said. “We are so proud to be a part of this project, and we look forward to welcoming visitors.”
In exchange for siting the new arts center in Taylorsville, city leaders partnered with county officials in making a financial contribution and providing the venue’s land, through a long-term lease. The city’s participation in the partnership is valued at $5 million.
Because it is a county facility, city leaders are not involved in operating MVPAC. However, from the very beginning, after the project was first announced in December 2016, city officials participated in its design, serving on various advisory boards.
For a couple of years, city officials hoped their Centennial Plaza would open simultaneously with the performing arts center. But various delays, most of them coronavirus-related, created the five-month gap. However, they were both completed in 2021, which is significant because the city spent the entire year celebrating its silver anniversary.
Taylorsville was officially incorporated on July 1, 1996.
Ironically, all of these Taylorsville City Hall campus changes that ended with ribbon cuttings in the city’s 25th year, first came to light during the community’s 20th anniversary year.
Braving sub-freezing temperatures outside Taylorsville City Hall on Dec. 5, 2016, Salt Lake County’s Mayor at that time, Ben McAdams, said the new performing arts center would be designed in 2017, built in 2018 and 2019 and ready to host musicals, plays and other events by 2020. Of course, that was way before we’d heard of social distancing and COVID-19 delays.
“Taylorsville is the perfect location for the Mid-Valley Performing Arts Center, because this southwest corner of the Salt Lake Valley is growing rapidly,” McAdams told the frigid 2016 announcement audience. “This will add to a vibrant community and help people feel connected.”
McAdams explained at the time, the Salt Lake County tourism fund would provide $36 million for the project, while Taylorsville City would make up the balance, primarily by providing the land.
Previous Taylorsville Mayor Larry Johnson was instrumental in getting county administrators to select the site adjacent to city hall, and also participated in the announcement news conference.
“I feel like Santa Claus with my red cheeks, but this is worth it,” he joked. “Mayor McAdams and I have the same vision for Taylorsville City, and this center will be a great addition to our campus. I’ve lived in Taylorsville about 60 years, and this is one of the most exciting announcements I can remember.”
Taylorsville native and Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton also spoke during that 2016 event, saying, “Tax funds from rental cars and restaurants will cover the county’s portion of the cost, not money from the general fund.”
Between the two ribbon cuttings last year, city and county officials also discovered a lucrative additional use for the Mid-Valley Performing Arts Center. In September, the venue hosted its first-ever professional conference.
The Utah Chapter of the American Planning Association held its annual two-day fall conference inside the MVPAC, becoming not only the first professional conference in the new center but actually the first sizeable convention ever in the city’s 25-year history.
APAUT is a nonprofit group of professionals, planning officials and resident planners who serve Utah communities. Taylorsville City Planner Mark McGrath is APAUT’s historian.
“Like many other groups, we are trying to get back to normal, piecing things together after COVID,” McGrath said at the time. “This is our first face-to-face chapter conference in two years.”
About 350 people participated in that conference, with room to spare in the MVPAC’s larger 440-seat auditorium.
“Yours is the first conference of this size we have hosted on the Taylorsville Centennial Plaza campus,” Overson said. “We consider it serendipitous this first conference is for Utah’s American Planning Association. That’s because we, as a city, have long shared APA Utah’s vision. Like you, we know how important future development and redevelopment are to our community.”
A final feather landed in the MVPAC’s cap late last year, when “Utah Construction & Design” magazine included it on its list of “2021 Most Outstanding Projects” (utahcdmag.com/UCD_2021_MostOutstandingProjects).
Just weeks after the MVPAC ribbon cutting, the Taylorsville Arts Council hosted its first official event inside the facility their members had dreamed about for a quarter century. A year after the group was originally scheduled to perform “Peter Pan Junior” (thanks again, COVID-19), Director Wendy Dahl-Smedshammer moved her cast of more than 50 kids, ages 5 to 18, into the arts center’s smaller theater, Studio 5400.
“We were going to perform at Salt Lake Community College’s (Alder) Amphitheater; but the show got moved at the last minute,” she explained. “It was fantastic having so many different colored [spot] lights to work with, to change the feel and texture of the show. We had green rooms and a nice backstage area. Having bathrooms nearby was also magnificent.”
Since that summer production, the Taylorsville Arts Council made use of Studio 5400 last month, with it’s three-night production of “Winter Wonderettes.” The group’s first use of the large, primary MVPAC auditorium begins late this month.
“We will perform ‘Joseph [& The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’] for six nights, Jan. 31 to Feb. 5,” Dahl-Smedshammer said. “It’s a Utah favorite, and we have not performed it for seven years. We’ll be rehearsing five days a week in January. The cast (of about 50) is incredible; their chemistry is off the charts.”
Taylorsville Arts Council Co-Chairman Howard Wilson said his performers will also make use of the new outdoor amphitheater in Centennial Plaza next summer.
“Our youth members are scheduled to perform ‘Willy Wonka Jr.’ for three nights in the new outdoor amphitheater,” he said. “But we still have to work out some details. We aren’t yet sure how to restrict access (to the acre of grass in front of the amphitheater), to make sure only people with tickets attend. But we’ll figure it out.”
Finally, before that summer performance, the Taylorsville Arts Council also plans to host its first in-person spring art show since 2019, this March. That annual show is scheduled to make its debut in the MVPAC. But, again, a few details need to be ironed out.
“We know we won’t need to use either of the art center auditoriums,” Wilson said. “But we need to determine where to position the art displays to not block [foot] traffic, for people coming to other events [inside the MVPAC]. We’ll figure it out.”
All of the Taylorsville Arts Council members are thrilled they are now down to working out “details.” After five years of hoping and waiting, their long-awaited venues are finally in place.
A quarter-century after the city’s incorporation—and nearly 20 years after Taylorsville City Hall was built—the site finally now has the appearance many have dreamed of for a generation.