ST. GEORGE – The Dixie Sunbowl may have a new future neighbor if a property sale between the City of St. George and the Washington County School District is approved by the St. George City Council Thursday. The pending sale is part of a three-way deal between the city, the school district and Dixie State University concerning the need for a new elementary school, the needs of the growing university, and the once questionable future of the Sunbowl.
West of the Sunbowl is the Elks Baseball Field and a series of horseshoe pits, covering about 6 acres between 100 South and 200 South in St. George. Considered surplus city property, it is slated to be sold to the Washington County School District as a site for a new elementary school in the downtown area that would replace the aging East Elementary School on 600 East.
“We are looking to see if that will work as a new elementary school site,” St. George Mayor Jon Pike said. “We are of the firm belief that having an exciting new facility – the elementary school – in the heart of St. George would help us even more to bring families and keep families in central St. George.”
A new school would be an economic benefit to the area, Marc Mortensen, assistant to the city manager for the City of St. George, said. It is also believed the school will help with the city’s continuing revitalization efforts in the downtown area.
A 6-acre plot is limited compared to the larger areas elementary schools typically cover, but the school district is considering building a multistory structure to suit its needs.
In turn, the eventual building of a new elementary school could open up the way for Dixie State University to purchase the existing East Elementary School building from the school district. University officials want to expand DSU’s campus in order to accommodate growing student enrollment. The Utah Legislature has already set aside $1.5 million for DSU to use for that purpose.
While the pending property sale is set between the city and the school district, neither the school district nor DSU has issued any public statements concerning where their own plans currently stand.
Before the City Council will vote on whether or not to approve the sale of the Elks Field property Thursday night, public comment will be taken on the matter. The council meeting will be held at 5 p.m. at the City Offices, located at 175 E. 200 North in St. George.
When talks between the three parties began more than two years ago, the Sunbowl property itself was considered a potential site for the new elementary school. It was a notion that didn’t sit well with long-term city residents who wanted to preserve the 66-year-old structure. The Sunbowl even become an issue for mayoral and City Council candidates during the 2013 municipal elections.
Pike previously told St. George News the City Council was 100 percent behind preserving the Sunbowl.
“We’re not talking about tearing it down and building a new one,” Pike said.
He added that the city is working on having the Sunbowl used on a more ongoing basis and not just for one or two big events during the year. One possibility is promoting the use of the Sunbowl as a sports field.
“We’re hoping that soccer and maybe football (can be played) at the Sunbowl,” Pike said, adding that the city has recently put down sod in the Sunbowl.
“We have nice, green grass in there now,” he said.
The city will likely be making various improvements to the Sunbowl, some of which may be completed through funding from RAP tax revenues and possibly private contributions, Pike said.
RAP tax funds may also go toward building replacements for the horseshoe pits and Elks Field.
According to the Washington County Historical Society, the Sunbowl was a product of the Lions Club’s desire to create a permanent arena for its annual Dixie Round-up Rodeo. A committee was organized in 1940 to pursue that possibility. World War II put the project on hold until it was picked up again in 1946.
Construction began the following year and was completed in 1949. At the time, the Sunbowl was built for $35,000.
- Pike reflects on 2014, sees new year as one for parks, recreation projects – January, 2015
- Sunbowl, Roundup go pink; 80th annual rodeo; STGnews Photo Gallery – September 2014
- Last dance for Dixie’s Round-up Rodeo and Sunbowl? – September 2013
- On the EDge: Save the Sunbowl – September 2012
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