Peak Parks

Recreation can be a hard sell, particularly when taxpayers feel increasingly overburdened during economic downturns. Park City, Utah, has made recreation an economic driver for the community.

You might say Park City already has an economic driver in the prodigious white gold that falls from the sky every winter, attracting droves of people to the powdery slopes of the Wasatch Range.

Drawing the Droves

Though this section of Utah just outside Salt Lake City gets its share of summer visitors, lured by cool weather and stunning views, the droves invade in the winter months.

Park City’s Recreation Services Department operates outside the realm of the city’s glitzy ski resorts and film festivals, but is working on making its offerings a draw in and of itself.

For example, Park City has attracted Triple Crown Sports — a group out of Steamboat Springs, Colo., that runs baseball and softball tournaments in all age groups.

A new event this summer has Park City hosting two weeks of girls’ Triple Crown fast-pitch softball, which translates to about 80 teams with 40-50 people from each team traveling to Park City for the tournament.

“It’s a huge influx of tax dollars for us, through lodging, restaurants and other venues. The city’s restaurant tax goes toward grants that are used to help attract more organizations and events to town,” explains Ken Fisher, Park City’s recreation services manager.

The city is also bidding for various sports organizations to make Park City their home headquarters. Sports organizations that choose Park City will augment the city’s designation as the US Ski and Snowboard team’s official training ground.

Park City is in a position to make serious bids because it has concentrated on maintaining its facilities to the “highest level,” says Fisher. “For example, each field is prepped and inspected before any games are played on them.”

Having a high-profile organization like the US Ski Team associated with the city has benefits beyond a resume check mark. The team keeps some of its training equipment in the city-owned Racquet Club and allows the Recreation Services Department to use it as part of its programming when the team’s not using it.

This arrangement, says Fisher, allowed Park City to get into the fitness business. To make room for the team and its equipment, two existing racquetball courts were renovated into the fitness center.

“Our fitness center is booming, but we’re somewhat limited by the room size and have maxed that out,” say Fisher. “To maximize space, cardio equipment is located in a separate area of the facility. When we made the move some patrons were upset because they can’t just jump from their cardio workout to weights. It’s funny how in a fitness facility some people complain about having to walk from one end of the facility to the other!”

The fitness center is part of the city’s Racquet Club, which also includes four indoor and seven outdoor tennis courts, an outdoor lap pool, cardio loft, a gymnasium, aerobics and spin studio, a hot tub and a brand new outdoor leisure pool. It comes in at just over 100,000 square feet and used to be a private facility that the city purchased on foreclosure.

The Park City Racquet Club opened the new outdoor leisure pool this summer. The new outdoor pool has a slide, lazy river and a sprayground. The pool starts at 18″ deep (where the sprayground is), descends to six feet and ascends back up to three and a half feet deep where the slide dumps into the lazy river. The deeper portion was worked into the design to accommodate water aerobics.

The pool is closed during Park City’s relatively long winters, but the school district has an indoor aquatics center. The school district and the Recreation Services Department collaborate on a number of facilities to minimize redundancy and maximize resources.

An example of this is the city’s playing fields. The department maintains the fields and, though it’s school district land, uses the fields for its own programming.

“Instead of the school district having fields that are empty most of the time, the city stepped up and developed playing fields for them. As part of the Interlocal Agreement the city maintains these fields and in return we get 300 hours in the school gymnasiums,” says Fisher.

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