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Taylorsville Journal

County spending millions in Taylorsville, constructing grandstands and launch ramps

Feb 23, 2022 07:33PM ● By Carl Fauver

The half-century-old softball grandstands were recently demolished at Valley Regional Park to make room for a new $6 million structure. (Salt Lake County Parks & Recreation)

By Carl Fauver | [email protected]

Off and on for half a decade you’ve read stories in these pages about the roughly $40 million Salt Lake County was spending to improve arts and culture opportunities for Taylorsville residents, through the design and construction of the Mid-Valley Performing Arts Center, southeast of city hall.

The MVPAC concept was first announced during a December 2016 news conference. Two years later—five days before Christmas, 2018—city and county dignitaries gathered for the official groundbreaking. And, unless you are taking this social distancing way too far, you know the MVPAC ribbon cutting was last May 26.

But now that MVPAC and the adjacent Centennial Plaza are in place and enjoying increased use, thoughts of “what have you done for me lately, Salt Lake County?” may be starting to creep in. This time around, the answer comes not from the County’s Arts & Culture Division but from its Parks & Recreation Department.

“We’re working on two significant projects in Taylorsville,” SLCO Parks & Recreation Communication & PR Manager Sean Bailey said. “Thanks, in part, to a $5 million donation from the Larry H. & Gail Miller Family Foundation, we are replacing the grandstand, restrooms and concessions structure at the (Gary C. Swensen) Valley Regional Park (5130 South 2700 West). And we also have a work crew constructing a canoe and kayak launch ramp, into the Jordan River at Millrace Park.”

Granted, these projects are “apples and oranges.” The softball grandstand will cost $6 million while the boat ramp comes in at about $175,000. But they are both designed to improve outdoor recreational opportunities for Taylorsville residents.

“We do an annual survey [of city residents] each year to determine what their priorities are, and outdoor recreational opportunities always receive a very strong response,” Mayor Kristie Overson said. “I appreciate the County’s plan to complete both these projects. We’re delighted the Miller Family’s donation has helped make the new softball grandstand possible. And any improvements along the Jordan River are welcome. That’s a great place for a boat launch, because Millrace is such a well-used park.”

City leaders are not participating in either of these construction projects, financially. But, because Taylorsville elected officials are likely to receive “what’s going on?” questions from their constituents, City Engineer Ben White briefed council members about them last month.

“I think residents will be quite happy to see these improvements,” White said. “Both of these projects will improve their ability to recreate.”


As most older Utah Jazz fans know, Larry H. Miller was an outstanding fast-pitch softball pitcher long before he owned a fleet of car dealerships or an NBA team. Miller is a member of the International Softball Congress Hall of Fame and the Utah Softball Hall of Fame. And, even though he’s been deceased since 2009, Larry Miller’s family still finds ways to lend a helping hand to the Utah softball scene, financially.

“A few years ago, the Miller Family agreed to donate $5 million to upgrade our county softball complexes in Big Cottonwood and Valley Regional Parks,” Bailey said. “But [county officials] determined, we would need more like $12 million to replace both of the existing grandstand structures, which were built in the 1970s. The Salt Lake County Council approved the additional $7 million through our Tourism, Recreation, Culture & Convention fund.”

Taylorsville City’s resident on the county council, Aimee Winder Newton, is pleased with that decision.

“We were thrilled when the Miller family donated funds to help with this project,” she said. “The renovation was definitely needed, and I’m grateful our county council was able to allocate the rest of the funds.”

The new softball stands have already been completed at the 47.5-acre Big Cottonwood Regional Park (4300 South1300 East). Meanwhile, the old stands were recently torn down in the 89-acre Valley Regional Park. No softball games will be held there this year, but County officials expect the new facility to open a year from now.

“[Salt Lake County] does have other softball fields, but these are the only two large tournament complexes [the County owns and operates],” Bailey said. “The seating capacity will not increase much from the old structures. But the buildings were getting very old and needed to be replaced.”


Meanwhile, the much less expensive canoe launch ramp now under construction in Millrace Park (1150 West 5400 South)—on the west bank of the Jordan River—is just one small piece of a project that spans virtually the entire river corridor through Salt Lake County.

Angelo Calacino is a 20-year county employee, with 17 of those years in the Parks & Recreation Department. As Park Development Project Manager, he’s one of several managers overseeing all the work being done, to make the Jordan River more accessible to canoers and kayakers.

“The County is putting the finishing touches on a Jordan River Water Trail Master Plan,” Calacino said. “Through that plan, we have identified several places along the river that need boat ramps or boat portages. One of the many places we identified for a ramp is the Millrace Park site.”

Structurally, ramps and portages are basically the same thing. The difference is, portage ramps come in pairs, a ramp where boaters pull out (upstream from a water hazard, normally dams) and another ramp to put back in. The Millrace Park project is simply a launch ramp, not located near a river hazard.

“The cost for each canoe launch ramp is about $175,000,” Calacino said. “For portages it is more like $400,000, which counts both ramps, and an asphalt foot path, connecting the two.”

The Millrace Park canoe launch is expected to take 2–3 months to construct. First, that part of the riverbank must be cleared of vegetation and excavated to create a walkable angle down to the water’s edge.

“Our engineers design the ramps to run at about a 30-degree angle into the water,” Calacino said. “Some will be longer than others. The cement path is 6 feet wide, running from the top of the riverbank down into the center of the river bottom.”

When it comes time to pour cement into the river bottom, Calacino says crews must install copper dams into the river, to divert the flow out of the work zone. Rock retaining walls are also installed next to the ramps, to protect the concrete from washing away.

“We have this beautiful recreational amenity that, for the past 30 years, has not been completed,” Calacino said. “The continuous Jordan River Trail was only finished two years ago. Now we finally have the funding put together to make this a truly good, safe, navigable river. We are overwhelmingly improving the river, making it a real feather in the cap for the state of Utah.”

For more information about each of these Taylorsville construction projects, visit On the website you will also find this information about the 75th anniversary the department has been celebrating for nearly a year: “Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation was formed back in May 1946 by community-minded citizens who wanted to coordinate recreation activities throughout the County, build more park space, trails infrastructure and manage the rapid growth of recreation programs.” 


New softball grandstands and a canoe launch ramp may not be on a par with a $40 million performing arts center. But nonetheless, many Taylorsville residents are undoubtedly thrilled with “what the county is doing, lately.”
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