As recreation plan nears the finish line, aquatics need takes the spotlight | ParkRecord.com

As recreation plan nears the finish line, aquatics need takes the spotlight

Jeff Dempsey

The Park Record

Jeff Dempsey/Park Record

At last week's open house for the Mountain Recreation Facilities Master Plan, a draft plan was presented to the public that laid out where tens of millions of dollars' worth of recreation facilities might best be located over the next 10-20 years. Even at this stage, Park City Recreation Manager Ken Fisher said there are still options on the table. A new ice sheet may be best suited on the same site as the Park City Ice Arena, or it might be more sensible down the road to build a new two-sheet facility on the IHC parcel directly north of the current arena. Private development may even mean no new ice sheets need to be built at all.

Those options can remain fluid even as the committee moves forward on a final draft plan to be presented to the public in September and to the city and county councils and school board in the fall. One community need that is not in question is indoor aquatics. In the preliminary draft plan presented June 29 at Park City High School, there is a clear preference for an overhaul of the Park City Aquatic Center located at Ecker Hill Middle School, which would include an upgrade from a 25-meter pool to a 50-meter pool and new locker room facilities as well as a warmup pool, a therapy/leisure pool and a hot tub. These improvements, said Aquatic Center Director Todd Klarich, are badly needed.

"The Ecker Hill pool was built in 1998 with a school-use-only in mind," he said. "It's connected to a middle school because it's a school district facility. Therefore, its main priorities when it was built were swimming, diving, and PE.

"Since then it's become the only indoor facility in Park City. Park City has grown, and the community has just used it more and more. The school district has used it more and more. The growth has been on both sides, and they're just running into each other."

Klarich points to the locker room facilities as an example of why the center needs an overhaul.

"We'll have third-graders in the locker room getting changed with older gentlemen who are coming out of an arthritis class," he said. "There is one stall in the men's and three stalls in the women's. It has overgrown its capacity."

Recommended Stories For You

The Ecker Hill pool is open seven days a week and there is never a time when it is not busy, Klarich said. He described it as, "programmed to the max." There are school functions as well as standup paddleboard yoga, water aerobics, and swim lessons, among other uses.

"The only open swim time I have is an hour and a half Tuesdays and Thursdays," he said. "Programming is definitely a challenge. It's taken me years to learn how to maintain it. I call it organized chaos."

Were Park City, Basin Recreation and the Park City School District to move forward on a 50-meter pool at Ecker Hill, Klarich said that extra space would give him much more freedom to program for the community. And, perhaps most importantly, to expand swim lessons.

"Currently they fill up within five to 10 minutes of us posting them online," he said. "People ask why we don't just offer more classes, and it's logistics. We only have so much space. For example, if your class starts at 5, there may be water polo or swim team going in the big pool, water aerobics in the shallow part of the big pool, and three or four classes in the little pool.

"It's a good thing to be busy, but it's not a good thing when kids don't have the opportunity to learn the lifelong skill of swimming. Turning kids and other patrons away, that's what hurts me."

Where the Master Plan goes now

Landmark Design Project Manager Lisa Benson said they will take public input from last week's meeting and continue to fine-tune the draft plan, which will be presented to the public in September. She said continued input over the next two months is encouraged.

"We need it throughout the process. It's always beneficial," she said. "It makes the end result that much better."

Benson said the community has been vital in helping Landmark to understand issues specific to neighborhoods, like traffic concerns, which they have taken into account as the process has moved forward.

"They've been really helpful in getting issues like transportation and traffic to the forefront on this," she said. "The Kearns campus is another good example. People were very clear they did not want us to touch Dozier Field or the North 40 fields."

Fisher said years of surveys and study have gone into the Master Plan process. The community knows what it needs — more indoor ice, indoor field space, indoor aquatics and playing fields — now they just need to zero in on what goes where.

"We need to decide how we are going to prioritize these needs, where everything should go and how much it is going to cost to own and operate them," he said.

As last week's meeting wrapped up, Basin Recreation Interim Director Megan Suhadolc said she is glad to have reached a stage where a final plan is taking shape.

"I know it was overwhelming early on with all the different plans at each of these different sites," she said. "I'm feeling really comfortable with what we've put together with this draft plan."

To view the draft plan in its entirety or to leave a comment, visit http://www.RecFacilitiesMP.org.