PROVO — A study 11/2 years in the making recommends that Provo replace three recreation facilities with a single $38.5 million community center.

The proposed 156,000-square-foot recreation center would include three indoor pools, two oversized basketball courts, an indoor track and space for the city's senior center.

The proposal, introduced by Brent Tippets of VCBO Architecture, recommends placing the new facility in Provo's North Park, 500 N. Freedom Blvd., and integrating the existing Veterans Memorial Pool.

"This would be one the largest recreation facilities in the state of Utah," Tippets said in a meeting with the Provo City Council, as well as city parks and recreation officials and a senior citizens board.

Tippets noted that Provo's population of 120,000 could use a larger facility, but he said the proposed facility would meet the needs of city residents.

The City Council commissioned the report to consider a facility to replace Provo's aging recreation facilities, including a pool and fitness area at Provo High School, the Eldred Senior Center and the youth-oriented The Center.

Under the proposal, the Eldred Center and The Center would be razed to make way for the new facility. The pool at Provo High School would be closed, replaced by the three indoor pools — a recreation pool and slide, a four-lane lap pool and a competition pool for use by local swim teams.

City Councilman Steve Turley balked at the hefty price tag, describing his initial reaction as "sticker shock," but said the ultimate decision should be left up to city residents.

"The people need to decide this," Turley said. "We have played with the idea of a recreation center for decades. I really want to put this to bed."

Now that the study is done, the idea could go to the public for a vote as soon as June. The City Council first will have to decide if it wants to attempt to fund the entire project or tackle the construction in stages.

Wayne Parker, Provo's chief administrative officer, told the group the city could fund the new facility without raising property taxes by using a variety of funding options, including a possible RAP (recreation, arts and parks) tax and extending the current bond debt for the Provo City Library at Academy Square, which is on track to be paid off soon.

Voters would have to OK both of those funding options, giving residents an opportunity to weigh in on the proposal. Other payment options the city could approve without a vote also were discussed. The final decision will be up to the City Council.

Tippets said estimates for operating costs for the recreation facility would require a $738,000 subsidy by the city — $216,000 less than the city now pays to operate the facilities the new center would replace.

Tippets said a survey of Provo residents showed that 66 percent rated a new recreation facility as a medium to high priority for the city, with 72 percent saying they would visit such a center at least once a month and 33 percent saying they would use it three times a week.

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