Farmington officials consider rec center for sports participants

Mar 23 2012 - 6:11am

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FARMINGTON -- This community is recreationally challenged.

There simply aren't enough sports facilities to accommodate the growing needs of youths and adults to participate in their favorite sports, many leaders say.

For example, Parks and Recreation Director Neil Miller wanted to organize a women's softball league this summer, but the city has no softball fields.

And the problem is hardly limited to softball. There is a shortage of soccer and football fields, and the city doesn't have a recreational center.

City leaders want to change that situation by putting steps in place that could potentially lead to a new rec center, with parks and amenities.

Discussion of a recreation complex was one component of a retreat held by city staff and leaders at the end of February. Talks were initiated again Tuesday during a city council work session.

City Manager Dave Millheim said he thinks the time is right to move forward with a plan to potentially build a recreation center and additional sports park facilities.

He said the big question, moving forward, is how large a facility to build and how to pay for it.

The city may be ready to take baby steps toward plans in the immediate future.

Miller came forward with a plan Tuesday for the city to partner with Davis School District to plant grass on 22 acres of district property near the district's bus garage. The area could be used for playing fields, maybe as soon as this fall.

Miller distributed a schematic showing 12 playing fields on the site. If an agreement is finalized with the district, the city would invest as much as $32,000 in planting grass and setting up a watering system for the fields this spring.

The fields could handle soccer, football and possibly lacrosse games, Miller said.

"In my mind, this is step one of seven or eight larger decisions we'll make over the next several years," Millheim said of the move.

During the retreat, city leaders speculated about possible partners, including the school district and the county, to address recreational issues.

Finance Director Keith Johnson estimates it would cost $11 million to $16 million to build a recreational center and a regional park.

He raised the possibility of bringing a recreational arts and parks tax before voters, similar to what is in place in Bountiful and Centerville to fund a regional theater.

The RAP tax could generate a small percentage of new sales tax from nonfood items that would be dedicated to recreational projects over a specified amount of time.

Millheim said the development of Station Park, with hotels and restaurants, would bring in outside funding to provide some help in raising money for the facilities.

Mayor Scott Harbertson said he met with Ken Sulzer, chairman of the county's hotel/restaurant taxing committee, about the potential for a RAP tax and funding for sports facilities from hotel and restaurant tax revenue.

Johnson also raised the possibility the city could partner with the school district to build and run a regional sports complex. Such a move works in Clearfield, where the city and the district share a recreational complex at North Davis Junior High School.

City leaders talked about the potential for putting a recreational center in the same area as a sports complex, with multiple multiuse fields for a number of sports.

Millheim said, "Our biggest challenge is, we can design a park and rec center, but is your community going to support that?"

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