You know those 12 acres of vacant land east of Guardsman Way below the Veteran's Hospital, the ones you always drive past, look at and say, "I wonder if they'll ever do anything with those 12 acres of vacant land."

Well - they might.There is a movement afoot to put a year-round swimming pool and fitness center on the site. The facility would be open to the public.

The fitness center is the dream of a non-profit group, The Salt Lake Rec-reation Center Inc. The group inherited the pursuit from East High patrons of the early 1970s, who wanted the Salt Lake School District to put a pool in the school when it was rebuilt after a fire. But it didn't happen.

"There has been a community effort to get this pool ever since," said Kimball Young, corporation president. "The need becomes greater, but the timing doesn't become any better. We think right now is the best time we're ever going to have."

Events validate that assumption. Salt Lake City - which owns the coveted 12 acres - has agreed to donate it for the project. It will also contribute $700,000 of the $2.1 million construction cost if the second $700,000 is donated by the Salt Lake City School District and the remaining $700,000 by private donors.

The city owns three outdoor pools - in Fairmont, Jordan and Liberty parks, said Mike Peterson, associate director of Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation Department. But it has no year-round pools. City residents do have the option of using the year-round pool at the Northwest Multi-Purpose Center, however. Several private organizations - including the YMCA, YWCA, Deseret Gym and the Jewish Center - open their pools to the public, Peterson said.

Most of the private money for the new center has been raised. The Steiner Corp. donated $500,000 for the project. Monday, the Eccles Foundation gave the group a $100,000 challenge grant. Supporters have raised an additional $7,000 through small donations.

But the district may not come through with its share. Supporters have met with the school board and district administrators.

School officials are interested, Young said, but they aren't sure they can come up with the money. In exchange for a $700,000 contribution, the district could use the pools for its swimming programs. The district lost its only swimming pool when it sold South High School to the state.

A recent survey of Salt Lake area residents shows a strong desire for more swimming pools. The survey, taken in late 1987, asked participants to list the recreational facilities for which they saw the greatest need. Swimming pools ranked first. A multi-sports complex was second, followed by basketball courts, tennis courts and baseball diamonds.

The proposed recreation center would meet three of the five needs cited.

The fitness center would be built in two phases. The first phase would include a 50-meter outdoor pool with diving tank, a large wading area for non-swimmers and children and a 25-yard indoor pool. The indoor pool would have a glass southern exposure, Young said.

If the district comes through with its share, the pool could accommodate competitive swimming programs from the city's schools. It would also be open to public, private and university groups.

The second phase is largely undefined. Supporters are talking about an ice rink, gymnasium, running track, racquetball courts and multi-purpose rooms.

What goes into the second phase may be dictated by the funding sources. The $2.1 million will only pay for the first phase.

The non-profit corporation has come up with a unique way to maintain the facility. The group persuaded the Legislature to amend the Special Improvement Districts Act. Under the amendment, residents can create voluntary assessment districts.

"People can voluntarily allow their properties to be assessed in trade for a discounted use of this facility," Young said. "A home owner could pay an assessment of $60 a year, and, in turn, receive a `family membership' to this and other Salt Lake City recreational facilities."

The group believes the voluntary assessments will generate enough money to maintain the pools and construct additions to the complex.

"It would all depend on how many homeowners choose to participate," he said.

Right now, the dream hinges on the Salt Lake School District. If the district fails to come up with its share of the money, the project would have to be scaled down significantly, Young said. The city may also pull out of the project. City officials made it clear that their gift of land and money depended on equal participation by the district.

Project supporters will meet with the school board Aug. 16 in a public meeting. They will urge the district to use the $150,000 it has spent each year on the South High pool to help build the pools on Guardsman Way.