HURRICANE — After a year that saw 76% of voters in Hurricane reject a bond to build a new recreation center, the head of the city’s recreation services painted a picture of both addition and subtraction for his department during the City Council’s first meeting of the new year with three new members Thursday.
Setting the tone for a meeting dominated by the state of the city’s parks, the council unanimously proclaimed February as Parks and Recreation Month, differing from past practice to make the proclamation in July.
“It’s pretty hot in July, so we’ll do it now,” Mayor John Bramall said.
Bryce King, Hurricane recreation and leisure services director, presented a state of the recreation department where he said some such as the “Hurricane Half-Marathon” are being discontinued, while the department is starting a new esports initiative and is in the initial planning stages for a 27,000-square-foot gymnasium downtown on the fine arts lawn of the Community Center.
“We don’t want to hunker down,” King said.
In November, voters soundly rejected a $25 million bond for the parks. That has left King needing to be more creative with how to still be ambitious about expanding Hurricane parks’ offerings with the resources he has.
That means removing some offerings where the participation level hasn’t been up to justifying its continuation. Runners will feel the most burden, as Hurricane is looking toward phasing out much of its race offerings.
Half-marathon being discontinued
The 2019 “Hurricane Half-Marathon and 5K” that took place on Sept. 14 will be the last for the foreseeable future, as the event is being discontinued. Hurricane still plans this year to hold the “Hurricane Triathlon” in May and the “Neon Night” run in October but hinted that those could also be phased out as well if the participation doesn’t warrant city funds being used for them.
“We had about 150 [runners] for the half marathon last year,” King said, “so I can justify using tax money and the investment for that.”
He added that private running events – such as the Sand Hollow Marathon that will take place in Hurricane on March 7 – are causing a shift away from city-sponsored distance running events.
“The market is so saturated with running events right now.”
Participation is an issue overall for the parks right now, King said. There has been a steady drop in participation over the last three years, including the city pool having 5,000 fewer admittances in 2019 compared to 2015.
However, King said the parks have seen a steady participation in youth programs, with 4,858 kids being served through Hurricane youth programs in 2019, which he said is actually more than the number of children in Hurricane schools.
New initiatives include esports, gym facility
A new initiative will be introduced this month in the form of an esports program with the city parks, with a dedicated esports room at the Hurricane Community Center.
King said he hopes the new esports program, which comprises various competitive multiplayer video games, will serve both the young and the young-at-heart.
“Our biggest goal is to bring people together, including kids with a social deficiency that would not usually mix in a social environment.”
The first big Hurricane esports event will be a Madden tournament on Jan. 31 at the community center, where participants will compete in the popular football video game series.
Another big initiative in the planning stages is a gym facility, which King said is not as ambitious as the recreation center and could be built without necessarily needing a voter bond.
The indoor facility would house four basketball courts and also be a space for major events. While still in the conceptual stage, King estimates the gymnasium would come in under $4 million, which is a far cry from the $24 million for the recreation center that was rejected by voters.
“We could use outside grants and county money,” King said.
First meeting for new council members
Thursday’s meeting was the first for new council members Nanette Billings, Joseph Prete and David Sanders.
Billings said the biggest difference between being in the audience of a council meeting and being on the actual council is that she has to think beyond her personal interests.
“You have to be the voice of the people,” Billings, who was elected in November, said. “My goal is to represent the people.”
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