Renovate club, a poll says | ParkRecord.com

Renovate club, a poll says

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Parkites want the Racquet Club renovated, a survey finds, providing City Hall with fodder as officials consider whether to put what would likely be a controversial recreation bond on the ballot.

In a wide-ranging survey about Parkites’ exercise habits and wishes, the pollsters found renovating the Racquet Club was the top choice when people were asked what they see as the most important recreation improvements or facilities that could be created.

According to the data, 54 percent of the people picked the Racquet Club as their No. 1 or No. 2 choice. The surveyors provide a list of six major upgrades, with building a new golf course, at 25 percent, finishing second.

Others listed include building a new indoor recreation center, at 18 percent, building new fields, 8 percent, building an indoor sports facility, 6 percent, and adding a second ice sheet to the Park City Ice Arena, 5 percent.

"As the baby boomers age, they want to stay fit and exercise," says Ken Fisher, who manages City Hall’s recreation programs.

The Racquet Club is among the most popular of Park City’s recreation offerings, drawing Parkites seeking a diverse workout and offering gymnasium sports, tennis courts, weight machines, cardiovascular equipment and numerous programs.

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But officials and regular Parkites, even as upgrades have been made, have long been concerned about its quality. Many see it as an aging building, lacking the pizzazz of private-sector health clubs, and there have been problems like a leaky roof.

Fisher says staffers plan to study the Racquet Club starting as early as this summer. That, he says, will provide officials options for the facility and potential costs. He says a major renovation of the Racquet Club is more likely than the study determining that the building should be demolished and a new facility built.

He says bulldozing the Racquet Club and putting up a new building would be expensive but he does not provide estimates. Fisher says Parkites are not dissatisfied with the Racquet Club and he touts its spot near neighbors on Little Kate Road.

"It’s a great location and that’s what people like. It’s in the center of town," Fisher says.

The survey finds 53 percent of the people prefer renovating the Racquet Club when they are given options like building a new facility elsewhere or not building more indoor recreation space.

The survey hints at City Hall asking for voter approval for a bond but Fisher says those talks have not advanced. If the City Council wanted to pursue a bond as a way to pay for improvements at the Racquet Club, Fisher says, it would likely be on the ballot, at the earliest, in 2008. He says a ballot measure’s chances are difficult to handicap.

"It certainly wouldn’t be a slam dunk," Fisher says.

There have not been extensive talks about a bond and it is unclear how valuable one may be. A survey question contemplates annual additional property taxes between zero and $200 or more. Twenty-three percent want none, 17 percent say a maximum of $49 each year and 19 percent are willing to pay between $50 and $99 each year. The percentages generally fall as the amount grows, with 14 percent agreeing to $200 or more.

In 2001, City Hall asked voters to approve a $2 million bond to fix up the Racquet Club. The measure was defeated. Stanton Jones, the owner of the private sector Silver Mountain Sports Club, mounted an opposition campaign to the 2001 bond and is credited with influencing the ‘Nay’ vote.

The current research says two-thirds of the people would or might cast a ‘Yea’ vote if asked to increase taxes to fund the improvements that they rated most important. About one in five people say they would vote ‘Nay’ and another 15 percent are unsure, the research shows.

The survey finds the weight room and cardiovascular equipment are popular, as is the Broken Thumb, a restaurant at the Racquet Club. The research shows 28 percent of the people rate the weights and the cardio equipment as the most often used offering, followed by the Broken Thumb, at 23 percent, the outdoor leisure pool at 20 percent and the indoor tennis courts, which also drew 20 percent.

If the offerings were expanded, the survey finds, 41 percent of the people would use additional weights and cardio equipment, 36 percent would walk or jog on a new track and 29 percent would use expanded space for fitness classes.

Others that would be used include a new rock-climbing wall, more tennis courts and a new indoor play area. Nine percent say they want more gymnasium space for basketball courts and volleyball nets.

The survey, which the pollsters describe as "statistically valid," was taken by mail and phone calls. They received 439 completed surveys out of 2,000 that were sent randomly.