How can Midvale get a pool and more youth programming? The city bets on one answer.

Suburban city hopes to get voter support for a new recreation center before the aging Copperview facility has to shut down.

The Copperview Recreation Center has been a Midvale staple for more than four decades.

Inside, residents take to the gym and participate in Junior Jazz, dance, archery, even rock climbing. Outside, they play soccer or skate at the skate park.

As the building ages, though, the city is bracing for its potential demise and hopes that new amenities, including a pool, become available to the public in the years to come.

This November, Midvale voters will be asked to approve a $10 million bond toward construction of a new recreation center. The bond would be paid back over 20 to 30 years through property taxes. Such a tax increase is not finalized yet, of course, but the city estimates it would run around $36 to $60 a year on a $438,300 house.

“Copperview has served our community well, but our community has really grown,” Midvale Mayor Marcus Stevenson said. “We changed a lot in the last several years, and we have more significant needs than we did many years ago.”

One of the residents’ most constant requests, he said, is for a community pool and more youth sports programming. A new facility would help provide those.

That bond, though, represents only a fraction of the $45 million the city estimates it would need to build a new recreation center.

“Midvale’s entire general fund, where our property taxes, sales taxes and other fees go into, is about $25 million,” Stevenson said. “So there’s really no financially responsible way that our city could build a rec center on our own.”

To make it possible, the city hopes to tap Salt Lake County resources.

Hoping for ZAP funds

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Copperview Recreation Center is pictured on Wednesday, June 7, 2023. Midvale is including a general obligation bond in this year's ballot to build a new recreation center. Mayor Marcus Stevenson said a new building is needed as Copperview, Midvale's current recreation center, is estimated to have roughly 10 more years before it becomes too expensive to maintain.

Every 10 years, the county asks voters to approve its Zoo, Arts and Parks (ZAP) funding, which allows a penny on every $10 of county-collected sales taxes to support arts, cultural and recreational offerings.

ZAP funds have jumped from $43 million in its 1996 debut to $90 million in 2016. In 2026, the program is expected to offer around $110 million to $120 million, Martin Jensen, the county’s Parks and Recreation director, said.

The popular program will be up for voter reapproval on the county’s 2024 ballot. If it passes, municipalities would present projects for consideration and a ZAP committee would determine the most needed.

In making the decision, the county takes into account its master plan, which is being updated, and other data. Proposals can include parks, trails and recreation centers.

During the latest ZAP round, Draper received funding for a $24 million recreation center in a partnership with the city, county and Canyons School District. Other rounds, Jensen said, helped pay for Salt Lake City’s Northwest Recreation Center, for instance, and facilities in Herriman, West Jordan and Taylorsville.

“ZAP has historically been the way that we have funded [recreation centers],” Jensen said. “There are other ways to fund them, but they are probably a little more complicated and take a little bit more work.”

Preparing for competition

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Midvale Mayor Marcus Stevenson gets some air at a skate demo at Copperview Skatepark in Midvale, on Friday, July 1, 2022.

Though ZAP reapproval remains more than a year away, Midvale officials believe this is the time to start shaping their proposal for a recreation center in the highly competitive process.

The city released a “Let’s Play Midvale!” campaign and community survey to determine public interest in the project that will collect feedback until fall. The hope, Stevenson said, is to present the results to the county for inclusion in the fresh master plan.

“With our recreation center at the end of its life, we want to do everything we can to be the most competitive possible,” Stevenson said. “So that’s why we’re proposing to put this on the ballot. So we can actually come to the table with funds in hand and with that hope that we get to the top of the proposed projects.”

The odds of Midvale prevailing are uncertain. The Copperview, Redwood, Kearns and Central City recreation centers were all built around the 1970s and may be near the end of their life spans. Though they are operating, Jensen said, they have a different feel than more modern buildings.

“We’ve also invested money in them in the past decades and past rounds of ZAP to continue to keep them functioning,” he said. “So decisions will have to be made. It doesn’t mean that we are closing the Copperview Rec Center. We are not. We don’t have any plans to close it.”

Copperview also had remodels, Jensen said, adding a gym during the second ZAP round.

If Midvale is unable to secure ZAP funds, it would most likely have to postpone its plans for 10 more years. If that happens, property taxes wouldn’t be increased because the bond wouldn’t take effect.

Alixel Cabrera is a Report for America corps member and writes about the status of communities on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here.