Jeremiah Stettler
August 3, 2010

After unsuccessfully chasing a multimillion-dollar bond in June, the Oquirrh Park Fitness Center plans to take a yearlong breather before trying again.

It’s not that officials have given up hope of building a bigger recreation center. It’s that they want more time to make their proposal palatable to voters.

“I don’t want to do something that isn’t well thought out,” said Alan Anderson, chairman of the Oquirrh Recreation and Parks District Board, who cast the deciding vote Monday to keep the bond proposal off the November ballot.

The fitness center has reason to be wary.

Voters defeated a $12 million bond in June that would have given the west-side attraction a massive makeover – maybe covered the Olympic-sized pool, enlarged the weight room, introduced a lazy river to the outdoor water park and added space for aerobics.

It was an appealing prospect for a fitness center that has grown so cramped that aerobics classes now spill into hallways and workout equipment requires a waiting list.

But voters within the Oquirrh Recreation and Parks District (a taxing district that includes portions of Kearns Township, Taylorsville, West Valley City and West Jordan) weren’t willing to pay the $39 a year on a $175,000 home that it would cost to fund improvements.

So fitness center leaders struggled — until Monday — to figure out what to do next. The question wasn’t whether to ask voters for money again — the question was when.

Laurie Stringham, one of three members on the Oquirrh Recreation and Parks District Board, remained adamant Monday the fitness center should put its proposal before voters immediately.

She believes the outcome might be different during a general election when more people, on both sides of the partisan aisle, come out to vote. The June election attracted higher numbers of traditionally tax-leery Republicans who, unlike Democrats, had a primary election to decide.

As for next year? It’s an off-year election for municipal offices, when voter turnout generally goes down.

“Our best time to catch the most people and get a pure vote of the populace,” she said, “would be this November.”

But the board took a more cautious approach, deciding to delay any vote until at least 2011. The fitness center’s existing bond is scheduled to retire then.

The delay likely will have little impact on the fitness center’s construction plans. If the bond had been approved this year, officials wouldn’t have started work until after the existing debt expired anyway. If the bond is approved next year, it might start several months later than expected.

But officials hope their next attempt succeeds. The fitness center hit 4,071 members in June — a bittersweet report for officials who wonder how many more patrons their west-side workout venue can handle.