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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Rec Center helps residents live an active life

Feb 22, 2022 08:10PM ● By Cassie Goff

The Cottonwood Heights Rec Center offers over 45 different fitness classes for all age groups. (Photo courtesy of Ben Hill/Cottonwood Heights Parks and Rec)

By Cassie Goff | [email protected]

On Feb. 1, Ben Hill presented an overview of the Cottonwood Heights Parks and Recreation Service Area District and their updates from last year to the Cottonwood Heights City Council. The Service Area’s District governs and maintains many of the parks, recreation amenities, and services within the city and beyond.

“Parks and recreation greatly enhance who we are and the ability to have a well-balanced life,” Hill said.

In 2021, they won the Parks and Rec Association award for Outstanding District throughout the state. They most notably received the award for coming out of the pandemic successfully while still providing essential services to the community.

The Parks and Recreation Service Area’s origins can be traced back to 1967, when community residents wanted more public parks and opportunities for recreation. A local district was soon created by a Board of Salt Lake Commissioners.  

“Over the past 55 years, the Parks and Rec Service Area has grown to be a state-renowned Parks and Recreation District with quality parks and amenities,” Hill said.

The Service Area District is now an independent political subdivision of the State of Utah. It is governed by a board of trustees, currently comprised of Dan Morzelewski, Bart Hopkin and Patti Hansen.   

Members of the Service Area District are looking forward to improved lighting to the pickleball courts in Antczak park and lighting at the courts in the Butler Plaza.

The boundary for this service area was set during their incorporation. Today, over 90% of the Service Area’s boundaries encapsulate Cottonwood Heights, with Murray, Sandy and unincorporated areas in the mix. To be a part of the Service Area, neighborhoods have to annex in.

Once annexed in, “it’s almost impossible to annex out,” Hill explained.

The Service Area District’s annual budget is set for $5,202,804. About half of that revenue is collected from property taxes (47%) and half from various user fees and charges (53%).

Since 1967, the Service Area District “has only increased the property tax rate five times. The rate has been pretty consistent.”

One of those times taxes were raised was in 2019. The Board of Trustees, as an independent taxing authority, went through the truth in taxation in 2018 in order to do so.

“Where the taxes dipped, there were bonds that went out,” Hill said.

The Service Area District took out a bond in 2010 to update the Cottonwood Heights Recreation Center indoor swimming pool, replace the roof over the ice arena, and add new locker rooms and equipment. That bond was fully paid off in 2021.

The Serve Area currently has 25 full-time employees including HR Manager Melissa Rough and Associate Manager Lisa Derant. The Service Area also has 180 part-time employees (ranging up to 320 part-time employees depending on seasonal work).

In 2020, the Service Area’s revenue decreased over $80,000, as the pandemic caused many residents to cancel memberships to the Rec Center. Since then, the revenue for the Service Area has bounced back and they have already hit their goals for 2022.

The Cottonwood Heights Rec Center is a 160,000-square-foot activity center that is open over 100 hours per week. It has four indoor pools, two outdoor pools, five locker rooms, five family locker rooms, five nursery and community rooms, five racquetball courts, two aerobics rooms, four various fitness/cardio rooms, a hot tub and sauna, a basketball court, indoor running track and an ice arena.

Surprisingly, Salt Lake County owns the land the Rec Center is on. The Service Area District leases the land from the county. It’s a collaborative partnership as the county often helps fund capital projects. Through the ZAP program, the Rec Center was able to secure $2.4 million of funding to install family change rooms for the pools and redo the outdoor diving tank.

Over 350,000 residents come to swim at the Rec Center every year. While the majority of visitors to the Rec Center are residents, 20% are nonresidents. About 4,000 of those attend various swim lessons, available to both youth and adults.

The Rec Center also holds over 45 fitness classes for all age groups: from SilverSneakers for older adults to Fit Kids for children. In addition, the Rec Center provides summer and after-school programs for youth within the community.

The ice skating rink is one of the Rec Center’s main attractions, as they average 500 skaters over a two-hour session on public skate nights during the winter. The Cottonwood Heights Figure Skating Club and Utah Jr. Grizzles frequent the rink. Additionally, it is home ice for the Brighton High School hockey team.

“We work closely with community partners on activities that we exclusively don’t provide,” Hill said. The Rec Center partners with AYSO Soccer, Brighton Cal Ripken Baseball and Brighton League Football.

Collaborative community events include: skate nights, ice skating shows, Easter parties and egg hunts, invitational swim meets, pickleball tournaments, Oktoberfest competitions, and the annual Thanksgiving 5k (with 1,993 runners in 2021).  

In addition to the Rec Center, the Service Area District owns Antczak Park, Bywater Park, and the Butler Park Complex. The Canyons School District does own the fields, however, they have an interlocal agreement with them.

The Cottonwood Heights Parks and Recreation Foundation was established though the Service Area. The nonprofit foundation sponsors families within the area. Some of their sponsorships include paying membership fees for families visiting the Rec Center and sponsoring young athletes to help pay for their gear and fees. 

Funding for those sponsorships comes from an annual charity golf tournament, the Thanksgiving 5k, and the Big Cottonwood Canyon Marathon. In addition, donations are accepted from Butlerville Days Gold Sponsorships, Utah Open Lands and Open Space Campaign, and Seven Greenways Visioning Plan.