Utah County residents will have the last word Tuesday on a proposed special events center at Utah Valley Community College.

Should voters approve a $7.7 million general obligation bond in a special election, an events center/physical education facility will be constructed on the Orem campus. If voters turn down the bond proposal, the college will simply build a $10 million physical education building funded by the state.UVCC President Kerry Romesburg looks at this way: "We will be getting a $17.7 million facility for less than $8 million. Combined with the land already available on the UVCC campus, the special events center is a buy that will not be available in the future."

The Utah County Commission intends to impose a 1 percent tax on meals sold at restaurants and fast-food outlets to pay off the bonds. The county would collect about $700,000 from the tax. Commissioner Gary Herbert said the tax is the most fair way to retire the debt. Rather than placing it all on property owners, the restaurant tax hits a broader section of the county.

Municipal leaders, county officials, local legislators and Gov. Norm Bangerter have urged voters to cast ballots in favor of the bond. They said the events center would enhance the county's image and boost the economy.

Bangerter assured officials last week that planning money for the project will be provided. Design of the facility would begin July 1.

There has been little opposition to the project. The Utah Taxpayers Association is about the only organization to come out against the bond proposal. The association is also opposed to the county levying the restaurant tax to cover the bonds.

"We are concerned about the limited time voters have been given to consider this proposal," said Howard Stephenson, taxpayers association president. "Many taxpayers feel they have not been provided sufficient time to properly evaluate the potential impacts of the project."

The Utah Restaurant Association also opposes the restaurant tax. Association President Ron Morgan said the group is working to gain support for a statewide referendum to repeal the new law that allows it. The 1991 Legislature gave counties the option to impose the tax for recreation, cultural, tourism and conventional facilities.

The proposed events center would contain an 8,500seat arena, exhibit hall, gymnasiums, classrooms, locker rooms, offices, and aerobic and dance studios. The facility would be used for conventions, concerts, sporting events, cultural activities, seminars, religious meetings, trade shows, rodeos etc. College officials have said at least 100 event days would be for community use.

UVCC would handle the operation and maintenance of the facility. Two-thirds of the cost would be paid for by the state. The remainder would be covered by rental, sales receipts and concessions.


(Additional information)

Proposal information

What: A special-events center in Utah County.

Where: Utah Valley Community College in Orem.

How: A $7.7 million general obligation bond to be paid off by a 1 percent tax on meals sold at restaurants and fast-food outlets.

When: A countywide special bond election Tuesday.

Who: The Utah County Commission would impose the tax and authorize sale of the bonds.

Why: Proponents say there is a definite need for the facility because there is no mid-size arena in the county. The events center will enhance economic development by providing a variety of cultural, civic and social activities for the community.

Why not: Opponents say the project has been rushed and voters haven't had sufficient time to study the issue. The restaurant tax is not a fair way to raise the money. Costs should be borne by those who use the facility.