An ambitious plan to partner with Payson to build a community and aquatics center won’t fly, the entities building the project decided this week.
However, officials plan to go ahead with separate plans to build a health center, playing fields and elite sporting academy on a portion of the land originally purchased as an education site.
The new plan will drop a proposed $20 million aquatic and community center and will shuffle planned facilities around on the proposed university site. Backers have also decided to avoid using Mud Springs as the main access, to alleviate neighborhood concerns about traffic.
“(Removing the aquatic center) was almost a $20 million reduction in cost to build the facility,” said Kenny Evans, MHA Foundation president, the private foundation that raises money for community causes.
The board of the Rim Country Educational Foundation (the private nonprofit that raises money for various educational projects) and the Rim Country Educational Alliance (the separate legal entity, established by Payson and Star Valley to serve as landlord and developer of the property), proposed partnering with the Town of Payson to build a community center and year-round aquatic center to replace the aging, uncovered Taylor Pool. The town would have essentially paid a not-yet-determined rent in exchange for discounted community memberships to the year-round aquatic center, ballfields, classrooms and meeting rooms.
From the start, Payson Mayor Tom Morrissey indicated he didn’t think the idea would go far. In a Roundup article he said, “I doubt this will receive support” from the council. (Park on east side of town needed, Aug. 13, 2019).
RCEF board president Gary Cordell and Evans “went back to the team we hired as consultants” to scale down the plans after “the extremely negative press and town leadership” indicated a lack of public support for the public-private partnership.
The overhaul of the plan should relieve neighbors along Mud Springs Road, who had expressed concern about increased traffic during an Aug. 28 work-study meeting between the council and Community Center Partners, the consultants hired to pull together plans for the community center and sports academy.
The plan envisions a “health and wellness center” on the corner of East Highway 260 and University Way, said Evans. The sports academy will still be built off of University Way, north of Granite Dells.
Access to the school and the health and wellness center will be off Highway 260 — instead of along Mud Springs Road, limiting traffic in the neighborhood.
“We never intended to put Mud Springs Road through,” said Evans. “We were going to bring University Way through.”
Some neighbors worried about traffic impacts from extending Mud Springs to the highway. The town does have the Mud Springs Road extension on its general plan, but no money to cover the cost of building the road.
“I’ve said for years we had no interest in building that extension,” said Evans. “Since we could not buy the adjacent property, it is not beneficial to RCEA.”
MHA Foundation board member Cliff Potts wondered if “the impact on that portion of the university property would affect any future applications.”
Evans and Cordell said the 253-acre property has plenty of room for other facilities, in addition to the sports academy.
“That does increase the opportunity to increase the number of ballfields available,” said Cordell.
Evans said although ballfields will front on Mud Springs Road near the Payson Christian School, primary access would be from University Way off of Highway 260.