FARMINGTON -- Davis County officials say they will continue to book mixed martial arts fighting and similar events at the Legacy Events Center despite recent criticism by officials of the host city.
"I don't want to perpetuate any hard feelings with Farmington, because we work with them on so many issues," County Commissioner John Petroff Jr. said.
But Petroff defends center staff for booking the June 1 event, "SteelFist Fight Night," saying they make sure all activities provide a safe environment for patrons.
Last week Farmington officials made disparaging remarks about the clientele of MMA events while begrudgingly approving a temporary beer license. City Manager Dave Millheim described the event to the city council as "rednecks, alcohol and a chain link fence."
Millheim said Wednesday that was a poor choice of words.
"I'm truly sorry I offended anyone," Millheim said Wednesday. "We value the relationship we have with the county. The concern was the event itself. Was that something we like or want in Farmington?"
Millheim said he plans to attend the event to better understand mixed martial arts fighting.
"I totally take responsibility for my words," Millheim said. "That was a joke in a late-hour meeting."
Still, he said, the city council has the right to question the events coming into its community.
This isn't the first time the county has booked a fight event at one of its facilities. A similar MMA event was held last New Year's Eve at the Davis Conference Center in Layton, also a county property.
"We have at least two or three (MMA or boxing events) a year," said Steve Ito, senior sales manager for the conference center.
He said alcohol was sold at each of those events, and there have been no incidents.
"A lot of families, a lot of grandparents, a lot of kids go to the events," Ito said.
An MMA event also was held at Legacy Events Center in 2011. Center Director Dave Hansen said beer was sold at that event under the county's on-premise beer license, so they didn't need approval from the city council.
"We absolutely had no problems with the event," Hansen said.
Hansen said MMA promoters wanted to operate their own beer sales for the June 1 event, so the group needed approval from the city for a temporary license.
An agreement with the county also requires that the MMA promoters provide security and insurance.
"We didn't walk into this event with our eyes closed," Hansen said.
Petroff said MMA fighters are skilled athletes, and those who attend are just enjoying the entertainment.
"You have to be responsible for yourself at any event you go to," he said. "We are not trying to be the moral police here."
Millheim said city leaders value their relationship with the county, but don't want activities at the center to interfere with the lifestyle being promoted with development in the area, especially nearby Station Park, which is going to be home to a number of high-end retail outlets, restaurants and office space.
Millheim said county plans to develop a park near the center, at 151 S. 1100 West, may restrict its ability to qualify for a temporary beer license for any event in the future. State guidelines limit issuing a beer license within 600 feet of a school, church, library, playground or park.
But Hansen disagrees.
He said the center already has an on-premise beer license as a recreational amenity, which allows the facility to sell beer at select events on condition it is not the primary source of revenue.
The events center is also not a traditional open-use public park, because it has locking gates, fences and buildings, Hansen said. Any fields the county develops in the future would also be fenced and part of the same rental pool.