Rosslyn Heights update: Empty east-side school could become space for high school sports

The former elementary school’s property may eventually be home to lacrosse fields, tennis courts and more.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) The former Rosslyn Heights Elementary property in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, July 25, 2023.

The now-empty, former Rosslyn Heights Elementary School building slated for demolition may eventually be repurposed for high school sports like soccer, tennis and lacrosse, a Salt Lake City School District official presented to board members Tuesday night.

In the early 2000s, the building was closed as an elementary school before it became home to public arts charter Salt Lake School for the Performing Arts, or SPA. The charter, housed in Rosslyn Heights since 2006, has since moved downtown after the district let the school’s building lease expire in June due to the extensive repairs and maintenance required to keep it running.

Sugar House community members — including parents whose kids attended SPA — have expressed concerned about the future of the property if the district were to demolish it.

“The part that’s upsetting to me is that the district doesn’t have any plans for the building,” SPA parent Lisa McBride told The Salt Lake Tribune in April.

Over the summer, the district awarded a predemolition contract to Fresh Air Environmental Solutions, which included removal of asbestos and other hazardous materials. That work began Monday, according to Isaac Astill, the district’s new executive director for Auxiliary Services.

Now, the district has a better idea of how to repurpose the land after the building’s expected December demolition, which is set to cost $340,491, according to a purchase order board members approved in August.

Moving certain sports to the Rosslyn Heights property

The property’s fate is entwined with the fate of West and Highland high schools, which board members are currently considering whether or not to rebuild.

If Highland were to be rebuilt, the Rosslyn Heights land could be useful for the district, Astill said, especially since much of Highland’s property would be under construction. The Rosslyn Heights property sits about seven blocks east of Highland.

“I have met with the Sugar House Community Council and some other people in the area, and [the] resounding message that I’m hearing is, ‘We’re really concerned about what you’re going to do with the property, please don’t put baseball fields on the property,’” he said. “Obviously it’s our property and it’s whatever the need for the district comes first.”

In this case, that need could call for moving tennis courts, lacrosse fields and Highland’s soccer field to the Rosslyn Heights property, Astill presented to the board. Specifically, the option included building six tennis courts; one combined, artificial field for both soccer and lacrosse; and a sports field building. The plan also showed a pavilion, playground and a parking lot.

The estimated cost of the repurposed property would be around $6.4 million.

“This option would allow for the baseball, softball and football fields to remain in place [at Highland] during construction,” Astill said, as construction would likely occur on other parts of the property while students still attended classes and participated in activities around the original campus. “If we don’t have a location for those students to play the other sports ... the fields would be lost.”

The district hopes to further discuss the property’s future in upcoming board meetings, especially as the building is not in use, said district business administrator Alan Kearsley. This includes talking about where funds will come from to pay for potential plans.

“I hate to leave property vacant with just nothing, because bad things start to happen,” Kearsley said.

Since SPA moved out of the building over the summer, there have been two break-ins, Astill said, which has led the district to install cameras and a security system on the property.

“There continues to be people noticing that the property’s empty, and we want to do everything we can to help the community feel at ease and know that we’ve got a plan for the property, but not necessarily a permanent infrastructure plan,” Astill said.