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West Valley City — state's second largest city was almost never born

Published: Sunday, Sept. 4 2011 11:45 p.m. MDT

The USANA Amphitheater has added to the economic growth of West Valley City.

Michael Brandy, Deseret News

WEST VALLEY CITY — West Valley City, an area of 35 square miles, was born on July 1, 1980. In its short 31 years, it has become Utah's second largest and most diverse community.

The new city of 72,000 was created not without a fight — at the same time city officials were being sworn in there was a campaign afoot to do away with the days old city, which finally proved unsuccessful. Utah's Supreme Court found in favor of the new city in a case brought before them.

Joseph Harker and his family were some of the first pioneers in the area. Granger was settled by Welsh Latter-day Saints who came in 1849 and forged it into a largely agricultural area. The Granger Ward of the LDS Church was founded in 1884.

Hunter, Utah, was founded in 1876 by the Nielsen, Larsen and Rushton families. With irrigation beginning in 1881, farming in the area prospered.

In 1918, 3500 South became the first paved street in the area. In 1942, World War II brought industry and jobs to the area. In 1963, the Valley West Hospital opened, followed in 1970, the Valley Fair Mall, becoming the city's economic driver.

During the mid 1970s, the Hunter area became the fastest growing area in the valley.

West Valley City became a "first class city" with a population of over 100,000 in 1996, and later that year, the Utah Grizzlies hockey team relocated to the city.

In 1997, the E Center, now the Maverik Center, was constructed to house the new hockey team as well as a venue for events and the future 2002 Winter Olympics.

Today, West Valley City has grown to more than 130,000 people. There are 21 elementary schools, four middle schools and two high schools. Transportation is key to the community with I-215 cutting through the city from north to south, and with the recent addition of a new TRAX line assisting in moving people in and out of the city.

Ronald Fox, owns a governmental relations and marketing firm. He is a photo historian and co-author of the book "When the White House comes to Zion." He has served as an advance man for five U.S. presidents. Email: UtahHistoryPhotos@gmail.com

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