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Spanish Fork nearing groundbreaking for new Recreation and Aquatic Center

By Nichole Whiteley - | Jul 15, 2023

Harrison Epstein, Daily Herald file photo

Land at the intersection of Main Street and Volunteer Drive in Spanish Fork is photographed Friday, July 14, 2023. The land is the site for the new Spanish Fork Recreation Center.

Eight years later after a failed bond, a divide between the community, a truth-in-taxation hearing and an unsuccessful referendum, Spanish Fork will have its 135,000-square-foot recreation and aquatic center. A groundbreaking is planned for in September with completion expected by late summer 2025.

The plan of this recreation center was brought to the surface eight years ago, but was delayed with a failed bond due community opposition. Several years ago, when the only public pool in the city closed, the conversation was brought back to the table. The recreation center was approved last March.

Dale Robinson, parks and recreation director, said the council decided it was necessary to take the project seriously and ensure a recreation center was built.

The architects are currently in the design phase. No dirt has been moved and the groundbreaking is scheduled for September. Since they are in the designing phase, the bids for materials and the overall structure are still tentative, but Robinson projects it to be around a $60 million project. The recreation center will be located at the sports park on the corner of Main Street and Volunteer Drive.

In the coming weeks, a virtual tour will be available for public viewing, once the city finalizes the last details. A sneak peek of the building design and updates on the project was released in a video during the Spanish Fork City Council Meeting on Tuesday.

Courtesy Spanish Fork City

A rendering of the new Spanish Fork Recreation Center.

In the sneak peek video, Mayor Mike Mendenhall said the conversation with Robinson and the architect will show residents, “exactly what features it will contain.”

“We’re close. We’re close to a lot of information,” Nick Porter, Spanish Fork public information officer, said about the video. “We’ll continue to update the website and just get people excited for the opening,” he said.

The value of the recreation and aquatic center, Robinson said, is that it provides a place for community members to stay active year-round. When the public outdoor pool shut down, the council discussed building another outdoor pool instead of the center, but they felt the year-round accessibility was crucial for the community, Robinson added.

“We have a strong belief in the overall health and wellness of a person which includes not just physical health but mental health. Those things really help with winter months, when it is dreary outside, you’ve got a place to go to work out, and we want to make it affordable,” he said.

Porter said there will be an indoor and outdoor aquatic center with slides and other play areas, basketball courts, studios for fitness classes, a gym, a weight room, a track, a senior center and more. Robinson added there will be hookups for pickleball in the indoor multi-purpose gym.

The senior center will be replacing the existing one, which provides entertainment, meals and social activities for its 250 to 300 members. Robinson said the new senior center, which will be included in the recreation and aquatic center, will include existing amenities along with a physical component.

“We want them to be in a facility where they can go and enjoy the amenities that can help them be physically active,” Robinson said.

The process

With a need for publicly available recreation center after the pool closed, the Spanish Fork City Council decided to hold a truth-in-taxation hearing to raise property taxes instead of putting it to a vote after the previous rejection.

He believes the original bond did not pass because they were depending solely on the citizens to pay for the bond, raising property tax by almost $16.

“The bond was so divisive. It got very combative and divided our community, and the mayor and the council didn’t like it,” Robinson said. “We were trying to put the full cost of the Rec Center bond on the backs of the citizens back then.”

Over the past eight years, Spanish Fork has been a beneficiary of area growth, bringing in more tax dollars along with a wrap tax on sales tax. Pulling from both of those taxes, impact fees and a donation from the Nebo School District for the indoor competition pool, the council cut the additional property tax required to pay for this recreation center to a third of what it was — bringing it to less than $5 a month for citizens.

Robinson said the distribution of where taxes are coming from to pay for the bond is what makes this process different and what encouraged the council to hold a truth-in-taxation hearing, avoiding another potential split in the city.

While there was concern and pushback from citizens when the council chose to raise the tax without a vote, Robinson said the council “didn’t want to go through that again and divide the community once again. So they were just going to bite the bullet and say we are just going to do this truth-in-taxation hearing and approve it, and that’s what they did. They took a big risk politically for them to go ahead and do that but it was successful.”

A referendum to stop the property tax increase was attempted, but ultimately did not receive enough signatures.

The city acquired two properties a few years ago, when they went up for sale and acquired four more properties for this project, three of which were residential and one, a business. The last property owner has until the end of July to clear out their belongings, then they will finish the demolition process.

“We didn’t force ourselves in any way, we let them know what our intentions were,” Robinson said.

Robinson added that there are still citizens against what the city did, and are doing, by continuing with plans for design and construction. However, he said, “the community overall is extremely excited about this. They’re happy to have this facility coming, and are grateful that they’re going to have some additional recreational opportunities that will carry all year long.”


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