Draper says it won't be 'bullied' by groups that oppose recreation center

Published: Monday, June 4 2012 7:43 p.m. MDT

DRAPER — A handful of business owners joined the Utah Taxpayers Association Monday to oppose a $29 million bond to build a new recreation center.

But the Draper mayor and City Council responded by saying they won't be "bullied" by those who oppose the facility.

The owners are concerned about losing business, arguing that a new recreation center would have some of the same attractions that their businesses already have, such as water slides and access to fitness equipment. Since Salt Lake County has tentative plans to build a separate recreation center in the city by 2016, a Draper recreation center would require the residents to pay for two facilities, opponents say.

Royce Van Tassell, vice president of the Utah Taxpayers Association, said it's an issue of double taxation.

"The businesses that own these type of facilities (in Draper) have a pretty good read on what is going to affect their businesses and what is not," said Van Tassell. "We have heard very clearly that they are very nervous about it."

Shane Huish, the owner and general manager of Cowabunga Bay water park, and Anne Marie Christopulos, the general manager of Tree House Athletic Club, argued that Draper has enough parks and recreational facilities already and a new center would hurt their local businesses.

"This community can only support so many water parks and it does include every attraction that we have here," said Huish, referring to amenities at the proposed recreation center, including lazy rivers and water slides.

"And what's next? Movie theaters and food courts?" Huish asked.

Huish added that he would be fine with a regular recreation center, as long as it would not threaten his business. A traditional recreation center, he said, should only have a basketball court or a lap swimming pool and not attractions that would lure customers away from his park.  

Christopulos noted that according to surveys, 62 percent of Draper residents already belong to an aquatic or fitness facility and the proposed recreation center would be built relatively close to her club.

The proposed facility would be city owned and operated and would be located east of City Hall in the Town Center Complex. Draper residents will be able to vote in the primary election June 26 whether to approve a $29 million bond to build the center.

"We believe now is the right time to do it and we believe this is what is best for our community," Mayor Darrell Smith said in a letter posted on the city's website. He said he and the City Council decided to push for the bond based on surveys that show residents want such facilities.

According to the city's website, the center would have about 140,000 square feet and will include an indoor sports field, a lap swimming pool, a family swimming area with lazy river and play equipment, walking/jogging track, racquetball courts, aerobic/exercise area, basketball/volleyball courts, a teen area, public multiuse meeting area and a child care area.

Van Tassell believes it makes no sense to have the bond elections in June because there is usually a significantly higher turnout in November's general election.

Draper City Councilman Jeff Stenquist said if the main concern businesses have is wanting the bond election moved to November, that is something that the council is already considering.

But Smith and the members of the Draper City Council issued a statement Monday saying they won't be "bullied" by those who oppose the center.

"The mayor and City Council are uniquely charged with understanding the needs of the community and its citizens. It would be irresponsible government for City Council to ignore these needs," the prepared statement says. "The City Council will take this important issue to the voters to decide and this city will not be bullied by special interest groups."

The elected officials also emphasized that the plans for the proposed community center would provide opportunities for sporting events, cultural events and children's activities at a low cost.

Stenquist insists the proposed recreation center would not be competing directly with businesses.

"We are very sensitive to our businesses and very supportive of our businesses," he said. "In fact, Cowabunga Bay benefited from taxpayer funds and we have supported them and have no intention to compete with them directly. We think that a city rec center fills a different niche."

Stenquist expressed concern that Salt Lake County has talked about building a recreation center in Draper, but no specific plans have been approved. For that reason, Draper wants to step in and build the facility now.

"We have no guarantees from the county that they will build a facility there (in 2016)," Stenquist said. "We were passed up for that in the last round and we don’t know if we will get that opportunity again."

If the bond passes June 26, then the recreation center would be open in the fall of 2013 in time for the new Draper Corner Canyon High School swim team to use the facility.

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