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Taylorsville Journal

Proposed construction of a massive field house at Valley Regional Park is stirring controversy

May 06, 2024 02:48PM ● By Carl Fauver

Because Taylorsville Dayzz sprawls all across Valley Regional Park each summer, organizers of the annual event are concerned about some of the plans Salt Lake County has to add amenities there. (Taylorsville Dayzz Committee)

“None of the three redesign plans Salt Lake County is considering for Valley Regional Park would allow Taylorsville Dayzz to continue operating as it has for decades.”

Veteran Utah State Representative and Taylorsville Dayzz Committee Chairman Jim Dunnigan isn’t mincing words after reviewing plans the County Parks and Recreation Department is proposing to add amenities at the popular 89 acre park, situated south and west of the county-operated Taylorsville Recreation Center (5100 S. 2700 West).

“I love much of their plan – particularly, covering the outdoor swimming pool,” Dunnigan continued. “But the county’s plan to construct a huge field house – much larger than the current rec center – would make it pretty much impossible for Taylorsville Dayzz to continue as it operates now. It would simply take up too much open space.”

Before continuing, a little perspective is necessary. For starters, all sides agree, any changes that may come to Valley Regional Park are, at best, several years away. Nothing under discussion now threatens this year’s Taylorsville Dayzz, or any of the 3-day summer events, in the immediate future.

Taylorsville resident Andrea Sorensen is Salt Lake County’s Valley Regional Park Master Plan Update Project Manager. She promises the county is committed to making improvements – but there are still funding questions to resolve, making it impossible to pin down an accurate construction timeline at the moment.

“We began surveying Taylorsville residents about their needs and interests for Valley Regional Park in 2022,” Sorensen said. “Since then, designs have been created and we have hosted public open houses for people to review the proposals and offer input. Now we are going through those comments.”

Valley Regional Park isn’t the only location Salt Lake County is evaluating. The Taylorsville site is just one part of the county’s massive overhaul of its Parks and Recreation Facilities Master Plan. Due out next year, this plan is only updated once a decade. The county describes its master plans as “aspirational, long-term planning tools that provide a framework for future improvements, growth and development of Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation spaces and places.” 

Based on all of their research, it appears the top priority change the county is considering now is to enclose the Taylorsville swimming pool, transforming it from a three-months-per-year outdoor amenity into what would be one of, if not the, largest indoor pools the county operates. 

According to their earliest surveys, when the question was asked: “Which (of the several potential changes discussed previously in the survey) would most likely bring you to (Valley Regional) Park?” the overwhelming choice was a covered, or enclosed swimming pool.

So, the master plan update is expected to include this change. But that will have to be followed by voters reauthorizing the county’s Zoo, Arts & Parks tax on the ballot this November. And that’s still not the end of the timeline – not even close.

Assuming the ZAP tax is renewed (it’s won every vote in a landslide for about 30 years), County Parks & Recreation officials will next have to gather cost estimates for the pool enclosure and many other suggested changes for several sites throughout the county. This total (no one is offering an estimate yet, but expect it to be in the tens-of-millions-of-dollars) would have to be approved in another election. The bond approval vote now appears destined for the November 2026 ballot.

Dunnigan says enclosing the swimming pool – by extending the existing recreation center, to essentially “engulf” the pool – would not adversely impact Taylorsville Dayzz. He’s also not opposed to another thing survey takers placed high on their wish list: adding outdoor pickleball courts adjacent to the recreation center.

Nope, the crux of the issue is definitely the proposed field house. Sorensen says that structure has not yet been designed, so its final proposed dimensions aren’t known. But the footprint for it, shown on designs to date, indicate it could easily have much more square footage than a football field.

“I don’t think a field house is necessary; there certainly has not been a public outcry for a field house in our community,” Mayor Kristie Overson said. “I think a big field house would diminish the park.”

However, Overson is quick to add, she loves the other proposed improvements.

“I am really glad the county wants to enclose the pool because every community discussion I’ve ever had regarding the park always includes that request,” she added. “As for pickleball courts, I know demand is there. When I drive by the courts the city added last year, they are busy. They have been such a benefit to the community.”

The other big concern Dunnigan and Overson have about the proposed field house is the way it would “hide” much of Valley Regional Park, out of view from 2700 West. 

“If the county extends the recreation center to enclose the swimming pool… and then also constructs this massive field house on the other (south) side of the rec center… that will create a huge wall of buildings, separating the community from the park,” Dunnigan said. “One of the wonderful things about Valley Regional Park is its openness. All these buildings would obscure that. And you would also be inviting mischief back behind the buildings because so much of the area would be hidden.” 

For her part, Taylorsville Recreation Center Director Tracey Gines is also excited the county wants to enclose the swimming pool.

“The community has been making it very obvious since the day I got here, enclosing the pool would be their top priority,” Gines said. “Doing that by enlarging our existing recreation center building would also create a lot of new space between our current structure and the pool. I’ve not heard much discussion yet of what might be in that space. New exercise rooms, event spaces or even staff offices are a possibility.” 

Taylorsville Parks & Recreation Committee Chairman Jared Smith says his committee members are also pleased with talk of transforming the swimming pool into an all-season amenity.

“The county has been good about including me in their meetings, leading to their current proposals for Valley Regional Park,” Smith said. “I have mostly attended the meetings online. (Taylorsville City Engineer) Ben White has also attended most of them. They have been good about listening to our input. The idea for a year-round pool is great. It makes it much more functional. I’m excited to see where things go from here.” 

Overson and Dunnigan both say county planners have promised to meet with them to discuss park plans further. They remain confident compromises can be made to make changes more palatable to everyone.

And again, perspective: none of what is being discussed now is under a banner reading “COMING SOON.”λ

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