Big crowd vets club plans | ParkRecord.com

Big crowd vets club plans

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Several times each week Don Nemec arrives at the Racquet Club for his workouts — a mix of cardiovascular exercises and weights.

But the Racquet Club space, he said this week, is cramped, with exercise machines taking up room for people. The weight room at the City Hall-owned facility is especially limiting for Nemec.

"You get 10 people in there, you can’t move," he said on Wednesday night at the Racquet Club, as Park City officials held a well-attended open house to talk to club users about ideas for a major renovation.

At least 75 people milled through the gymnasium, talking to the city officials, perusing possible designs for a redone Racquet Club and learning about what features might be put into the renovated facility.

The open house was scheduled as Mayor Dana Williams and the Park City Council are preparing for key talks about the aging Park Meadows health club. The elected officials on May 29 are tentatively scheduled to discuss earmarking $8 million to renovate the Racquet Club, and the money could be approved in June as part of the overall budget.

Nemec, who lives in Aspen Springs, said Parkites deserve an upgraded facility. He said he hopes the City Council agrees to spend the money.

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"We have a world-class town, so let’s have a world-class facility," he said.

City Hall for years has wanted to upgrade the Racquet Club, but officials have not considered as wide-ranging plans as those now under consideration.

Officials say they might tear down much of the Little Kate Road building, with the gymnasium and the indoor tennis courts all that would likely remain standing under one design.

Leaders would then retool the facility, with numerous workout and fitness options being discussed, including an indoor surfing machine. That idea drew significant interest on Wednesday.

"I think people move here because of the recreational opportunities," said Ken Fisher, who manages the Racquet Club, calling the facility a "community gathering place."

Fisher expects the City Council to approve the $8 million, and he wants the elected officials to set also aside $2 million to build an indoor pool at a location to be picked later. If the money is earmarked for the Racquet Club, Fisher wants to start the work in spring 2009.

The Wednesday crowd was mixed, with some parents bringing their kids with them to peruse the ideas and some middle-aged people learning about the plans. People came from disparate Park City neighborhoods, with Park Meadows appearing to be heavily represented.

Joe Cronley, who lives in Park Meadows, said he would like an indoor track and an indoor lap pool as part of the blueprints. He uses the Racquet Club three times each week in the winter but less often in the summer, choosing the cardiovascular equipment and weights for his workouts.

Another Park Meadows resident, Dan Smith, said he rarely uses the Racquet Club, but his kids play tennis there. He supports the overall idea to upgrade the building, and he likes the idea of the indoor surfing equipment.

The equipment, called a FlowRider, would be popular, officials say, and attract people between 13 and 21 years old. It would "create an atmosphere at the Racquet Club that will make this facility a vibrant fun place on a year-round basis," a Wednesday City Hall handout said, adding that it "fits in with the Park City lifestyle of action sports, fitness and health."

A FlowRider also has "great revenue potential" that could subsidize other Racquet Club programs, the handout said.

Candy Erickson, a City Councilwoman who lives in Park Meadows, said at the open house she supports the $8 million budget request. She said the people there, however, asked her for diverse features for a redone building.

Some want more tennis courts and space to watch players on the indoor tennis courts, she said. Others told her they would like money spent on what she described as lifelong sports, such as swimming in a lap pool.

"The most important thing in this community is fitness, for the kids and the adults, too," Erickson said.

Critic: sell the place

Tom Hurd, for years a critic of City Hall, said on Wednesday night the local government should sell the Racquet Club instead of renovating the facility.

He said a recreation building like the Racquet Club is not something a government should run.

"This is upper-middle-class welfare," Hurd said, explaining that City Hall ownership of the Racquet Club amounts to subsidizing regular Parkites because it does not cost as much to use as a private-sector health club.

He said the renovation will cost too much money. Instead, Hurd said, City Hall could sell the Racquet Club and then finance other government services. No taxpayer money should be spent on the Racquet Club, he said.

"If they want to be in the recreation business, they should buy Deer Valley," Hurd said.

Hurd lives in Thaynes Canyon, and he frequently opposes local government spending. He previously criticized a $15 million bond measure to improve pedestrian and bicyclist routes. Parkites passed the bond.

"It should be sold. It should be . . . It doesn’t belong in the public realm," he said about the Racquet Club.

Meanwhile, Stanton Jones, who owns Silver Mountain Sports Club, on Thursday night told City Councilors he supports the renovation of the Racquet Club, but he worries about competition. He also said City Hall must address parking and traffic as it finalizes plans for the Racquet Club.

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