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Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Chris Clift and Jim Gould play racquetball under a ceiling of broken tiles at the Marv Jenson Recreation Center in South Jordan on Monday, March 19, 2018.

SOUTH JORDAN — For more than 20 years, Salt Lake County's Marv Jenson Recreation Center — named after the now-deceased boxing legend and local politician — has served swimmers, racquetball players and other athletes.

But the clock is ticking for the aging South Jordan gym.

In another two to three years, its doors will be closing, Salt Lake County officials confirmed Monday.

"We don't have a date yet," said Martin Jensen, the county's parks and recreation division director, but he estimates the closure will come in the next few years.

"As soon as we know, we will announce it. But I can promise people it's not going to be closing tomorrow," Jensen said, adding that when county officials have a date, they'll give gym users plenty of advanced notice.

Wayne George, of South Jordan, was lifting weights on Monday when he heard about the gym's upcoming closure from a reporter. He said he has been attending the Marv Jenson gym since 1983, well before the county purchased it in 1995.

"I would hate to lose it," he said. "I know a lot of people really enjoy it."

Chris Clift and Jim Gould were between games of racquetball Monday when they heard the news. They said they had heard rumors, but they were disappointed to hear they were true.

"We'd like to see them put money back into it," Clift said, noting that there aren't very many racquetball courts nearby. "A lot of people use it. It does serve a purpose."

Talk of the gym's closure has been circulating for several years, ever since the county, as part of a 2015 master plan, conducted a feasibility study that reviewed the gym's maintenance needs.

The county bought the 40,000-square-foot building in 1995 for $1 million from a failed athletic club. It was named after former Salt Lake County Commissioner Marv Jenson, who was known for training the award-winning boxer Gene Fullmer.

Jensen said the aging fitness center, 10300 S. Redwood Road, will require millions of dollars of investment — if not a complete rebuild.

"It needs a massive investment to keep it alive, and we've determined it's in our best interests to eventually close it," Jensen said.

The gym, Jensen added, has other challenges because of its smaller layout, initially built as an athletic club rather than a recreation center. Its parking is "woefully inadequate," Jensen said, and it's pool and gymnasium are much smaller than other county facilities. It also has challenges meeting requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, he said.

Kari White, Marv Jenson's facilities manager, on Monday pointed out numerous upkeep issues facing the gym, from a heating, ventilation and air conditioning system that needs updating to a pool that needs resurfacing. She also pointed out multiple cracks in the walls from the foundation shifting and an area in a utility room where two brick walls have separated.

"I do anticipate some pushback from people saying they love the facility, and we understand that, but in the end, we have to look at what's in the best interest of the taxpayer," Jensen said. "It's an antiquated facility that needs a massive infusion of money, and in this instance, it's best to look at other ways to provide recreation service."

It's not yet clear what will happen to the building once its doors shut. Jensen said it will be up to county elected officials to decide whether the building and its land will be sold or perhaps used for another purpose.

Currently, Salt Lake County subsidizes the Marv Jenson center at roughly $400,000 a year, Jensen said. Some years, however, it fluctuates. Last year it cost $600,000, according to county staff.

Once the Marv Jenson gym closes, Jensen said the county plans to transfer its subsidy to the recreation center being built in Draper.

Jensen said some early discussions have been happening with South Jordan officials about Salt Lake County possibly shifting some of its programming from Marv Jenson to the South Jordan Fitness and Aquatics Center located a few blocks south.

"We want to make sure that South Jordan residents' recreation needs are being met, and we're considering a lot of different options, but we don't have any resolution right now," Jensen said.

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Salt Lake County Councilman Steve DeBry, whose district includes the Marv Jenson center, said the gym "would be just way too expensive to try to refurbish or build," so he believes the building "will most likely have to be razed."

There have also been talks with South Jordan officials about "swapping the ground" beneath the Marv Jenson gym for something else, DeBry said, but those discussions are just starting.

However, DeBry said he and other county officials will want to keep the soccer fields and other green space located west of the park as is. "We're going to keep that no matter what," he said.