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Sandy Journal

Alta Canyon a main focus for city council in 2021 budget discussions

Apr 12, 2021 10:09AM ● By Justin Adams

The Alta Canyon Sports Center’s cardio room, housed in an old racquetball court, is one of many features at the center in need of an upgrade. (Justin Adams/City Journals)

By Justin Adams | [email protected]

During its Feb. 23 meeting, the Sandy City Council held a discussion about members’ priorities as they head into the thick of the next budget season. One of the top priorities for many of the councilmembers was the Alta Canyon Sports Center.

The center, located at 9565 Highland Dr., has long been in need of repairs and upgrades. When the center opened in 1985, much of the equipment was bought used in order to save costs. Now those features—some as old as the 1950s and 1960s—are starting to break down.

“Right now we’re putting out fires as fast as they’re appearing. As soon as we fix one thing, there’s another that needs to be addressed. It’s a struggle for sure,” said Jetta Marrott, who managed the center for years before being promoted to be the assistant director of the whole Parks and Recreation department earlier this year.

There were plans for major renovations of the center in 2008, but the Great Recession brought those plans to an end. Ever since then, the center and the city have been in a “vicious cycle” of trying to figure out what the next steps should be, according to Marrott.

However, it’s looking like 2021 might finally be the year that the long-term fate of the center gets decided. And ironically, it might be possible because of the COVID-19 recession…that didn’t actually end up being a recession. (At least for Sandy City.)

Between a freeze on certain categories of spending, an influx of federal relief funds and an unexpected increase in sales tax revenue, the city may be in a position to tackle some of the capital projects that have been on the back burners for years, including Alta Canyon.

The tennis courts at the Alta Canyon Sports Center, seen here, are in major need of repair. (Justin Adams/City Journals)

“It might be time to chip away at those capital projects,” said Councilwoman Cyndi Sharkey. “We can seriously contemplate chipping away at those things.”

What exactly the improvements might look like is up for debate. The center could simply be renovated, replacing old equipment and getting new carpet. It could be expanded, either by adding more programming space or possibly as the new home for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department offices. 

There’s also a question of how to operate the center. Currently, the center collects property tax revenue from a special service tax district that encompasses some, but not all, of Sandy City. The gap in the center’s budget could be filled by increasing fees for those already inside the district, or by expanding the district to all of Sandy. (Currently, residents inside the district pay about $40 per year to help fund the center.)

All these questions will be analyzed by a consultant who will give recommendations to the city on how to proceed. 

“The city’s in the process of hiring an outside group to come in and do a study to figure out what the needs are in the community and what kind of facility would best address those. Hopefully,  that will break us out of the cycle and set us in a direction,” Marrott said. 

As for how the city will pay for whatever plan is eventually chosen, the city council was clear that it wouldn’t include a general property tax increase. Instead, the money would likely come from reserve funds and a possible bond.