New Provo recreation center to open in April

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The doors to a brand new recreation center in Provo are set to open in Spring 2013 after years of planning.

The project has been in the works for more than 10 years and construction began in September 2011. The new facility includes tennis, racquetball and basketball courts, an indoor pool as well as an open access skate park. The city expects to receive the building from the construction company in March and open the doors in April.

According to Scott Henderson, the recreation division director, the new recreation center was funded by a $39 million bond voted on by Provo residents in November 2010.

“We’ve done two feasibility studies, one in 2000, and then we came back eight years later and did another one. Both showed that citizens were in favor of the new rec center,” Henderson said.

The new recreation center will replace the current one located behind Provo High School and will include a brand new senior center.

With six pools, four gymnasiums and many more amenities, the facility will offer the community a large array of activities and programs that are currently unavailable.

Construction workers make progress on provo’s new recreation center. (Photo by Elliott Miller)

“We’re operating now out of facilities that were built in the 1970s, and those are some of our newer ones. So this is going to open up a whole new world of programs,” Henderson said.

Cathy Smits is the director of the current recreation center and will be over aquatics in the new one. Smits is looking forward to offering better programs to the people of Provo.

“It’s going to have activities, programs, classes and amenities for all community members of all ages and abilities,” Smits said. “It will be able to serve a lot more community than the current rec center can.”

Henderson said the new facility was designed with Provo families in mind. With 18 family changing rooms, indoor and outdoor playgrounds, and a child watch center, the center hopes to encourage family visits.

“We really want kids to go home and say, ‘Hey, Mom and Dad, you guys going to work out tonight? I want to go to the child watch,'” Henderson said.

The aquatic center includes a lap pool, warm water program pool, tree house-themed play pool, aquatic climbing wall and two water slides as well as a hot tub.

“This indoor aquatic center is unmatched in Utah,” Henderson said. “We had a national consultant doing a master plan for our department. He’s seen just about every rec center there is to see. He said this one will rank in the top 2 percent when it’s done.”

With no added cost, the center will also have an outdoor pool as well. Veterans Pool is located right next to the building and will become a part of the new recreation center.

As well as considering the Provo family, Henderson and others working on the project sought to make the new facility more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

Because of the large number of windows, the center will largely be run without lighting during the day and lights will slowly turn on as it gets darker.

The windows and glass walls are also intended to bring a more open and connected feeling to the center. A 1/6 mile indoor track that circles the recreation portion of the center also brings a sense of unity to the facility.

“When you’re doing a building this big, it can start to look like Wal-Mart if you don’t pay attention. That’s why we wanted to relate everything together,” Henderson said.

Two casualties of the new facility are The Center, a youth program building, and the Eldred Senior Center, which will be torn down in February for parking lots.

The east wing of the new recreation center will be dedicated to senior programs during the day and open up to more community activities in the evenings.

“The idea of the sequestered senior center is kind of over. Seniors now want to do a lot of the same activities as everyone else,” Henderson said of the decision to include the senior center in the new building.

Alicia Christensen is the recreation coordinator over the Eldred Senior Center. Christensen is excited about the future ability to offer more fitness and active lifestyle programs to seniors.

“We’re really trying to update our programs, and it will hopefully bring a lot of new people in,” Christensen said.

Some seniors are hesitant about the move, but most are pleased with the plans for the new center.

“It’s time, and a lot of the community feels that way,” Gene Warner, a local senior, said.

Mamie Rubio is one of the seniors with some hesitations. He said, “I like the new one, but it hurts me to think that they would be tearing down (The Eldred Center) because I know it costs a lot of money.”

Citizen response to the center has been largely positive. The local government is hoping the new recreation center will enhance the Provo community.

Mayor John Curtis hopes the new facility will bring the people of Provo together.  “The primary goal is a community gathering place,” Curtis said.

Membership prices are still being discussed and are scheduled to be set in early 2013, including a discounted price for students.

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