Harrison Epstein, Daily Herald
After eight years of failed relationships, community divisions, truth-in-taxation hearings and an unsuccessful referendum, Spanish Fork will finally have its 135,000-square-foot recreation and aquatic center. A groundbreaking is planned for September, with completion expected by late summer 2025.
The plan for the recreation center was mooted eight years ago but was delayed due to community opposition. Years ago, when the city’s only public pool closed, the conversation was brought back to the table. The permission was granted for the recreation center last March.
Parks and Recreation Director Dale Robinson said the council decided to take the project seriously and ensure a recreation center was built.
Architects are now in the design phase. The dirt has not been cleared and the groundbreaking is scheduled for September. Bids for materials and the overall structure are still tentative because they are still in the design phase, but Robinson estimates it will be a roughly $60 million project. The recreation center is located in the sports park on the corner of Main Street and Volunteer Drive.
In the coming weeks, a virtual tour will be available to the public once the city finalizes the final details. A sneak peek of the building design and updates on the project were released in a video at Tuesday’s Spanish Fork City Council meeting.
Courtesy Spanish Fork City
In the sneak peek video, Mayor Mike Mendenhall said a conversation with Robinson and the architect will show residents “exactly what features it has.”
“We are close. We’re close to a lot of information,” Spanish Fork Public Information Officer Nick Porter said of the video. “We will continue to update the website and get people excited for the opening,” he said.
The value of the recreation and aquatic center is that it provides a place for community members to stay active year-round. When the public outdoor pool closed, the council discussed building another outdoor pool to replace the center, but they felt year-round accessibility was critical to the community, Robinson added.
“We strongly believe in a person’s overall health and well-being, which includes not only physical health, but also mental health. “They really help in the winter months, when it’s dreary outside, you have a place to go to work, and we want to make that 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, weight room, track, senior center and more. Robinson added that there will be hookups for Pickles in the indoor multi-purpose gym.
The senior center will replace the existing one, providing recreation, dining and social activities for 250 to 300 members. Robinson said the new senior center, which will be incorporated into the Recreation and Aquatic Center, will incorporate existing facilities along with the physical component.
“We want them to be in a facility where they can go and enjoy facilities that help them be physically active,” Robinson said.
With the need for a 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 a vote after a previous rejection.
He believes the original bond didn’t pass because they relied solely on citizens to pay for the bond, raising property taxes by about $16.
“The relationship was very divisive. It was very combative and divided our community, and the mayor and 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.”
For the past eight years, the Spanish Fork area has been the beneficiary of growth, bringing in more tax dollars with a wrap tax on sales tax. Subtracted from these two taxes, the impact fee and the donation from the Nebo School District for the indoor competition pool, the council cut the additional property tax it would have to pay for the recreation center by a third. $5 per month for citizens.
Robinson said what makes the process different is the distribution of where the taxes come from to pay for the bond and encouraged the council to hold a truth-in-taxation hearing, avoiding another potential split in the city.
While there was concern and backlash from citizens when the council decided to raise taxes without a vote, Robinson said, “Council doesn’t want to go through that again and divide the community again. So they were going to bite the bullet and we’re going to have this truth-in-taxation hearing and accept it, and that’s what they did. They took a huge risk politically to go ahead and do it, but it paid off.
Attempts were made to hold a referendum to block the property tax increase, but ultimately did not receive enough signatures.
A few years ago the city acquired two properties that they went up for sale and acquired four more properties for this project, three of which were residential and one was business. The last property owner has until the end of July to remove their belongings, after which they will complete the demolition process.
“We didn’t force ourselves in any way, we let them know what our intentions were,” Robinson said.
Robinson added that citizens are still against what the city has done and is doing by moving forward with plans for design and construction. However, the community as a whole is very excited about it. They are excited to have this facility and are grateful that they are going to have some additional recreational opportunities throughout the year.