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Orem Fitness Center will close pools for eight months, take 18 for rebuild

May 18, 2019

Orem residents concerned about the demolition and buildout of the city’s Fitness Center now have a timeline and a few questions answered about what’s happening and when.

Residents voted on a $24.5 million bond in November that would add a library hall and auditorium as well as remodel the fitness center.

On Thursday, it was determined the center will be closed on July 1 to start that remodel.

“It will take one month of salvaging and prep work and we will start demolition from the locker rooms east,” said Karl Hirst, director of Parks and Recreation.

There are three floors to the fitness center: the basement, ground and second floors. The current plan is to take out the basement track and bring it up to the second floor.

Hirst said the rush is on to get the under foundation, plumbing, locker room and mechanical room including the boiler, electrical and HVAC systems replaced. In the meantime the indoor pools will be closed.

“The goal (to reopen) is spring 2020,” Hirst said. “The pools will be shut down for eight months.”

Hirst said the outdoor SCERA pools will stay open until weather conditions force them shut down. That could be through October if the weather stays relatively warm and the nights do not get down to a freezing level.

Three Orem high schools, Timpanogos, Mountain View and Orem, have swim teams that use the Fitness Center. The Alpine School District has been able to arrange with the Provo Recreation Center for water training time for these schools’ teams.

“We are still looking for water space for the Orem Timpanogos Aquatics Club,” Hirst said. “Provo has been very generous to us.”

The school district pays for the use of the pools, be it Orem or now Provo.

Hirst said there are options for the interior of the Fitness Center and residents will be invited to public meetings to discuss design options and to give opinions in June. However, the square footage and outside wall footprint is basically set.

Hirst has to watch the money, as this project was dictated by the bond.

“We don’t know if we’re over budget or not,” Hirst said. “Once we have the option our contractor, Big D will put out cost packages.”

When it comes to the Fitness Center Hirst said, “Everybody has a pet sport or project they want to see.”

That is certainly true of racquetball players that have filled the council chambers on two occasions to protest the reduction in courts.

The current facility has 14 racquetball courts. The new buildout shows only four courts will replace them.

Orem resident David Pollei has initiated a petition, saying the city neglected to give specific details on what was being bonded for, what is being taken out, what money was going into the new fitness center and what money to the new library hall.

The library hall had its groundbreaking Tuesday.

In part the petition says, “There was no specific plan or specific dollar amount that was allocated to each project,” the petition said. “The language on the Bond Ballot did not include the reduction of specific areas of the recreation center, specifically the racquetball courts and the gun range, yet the management of Orem City is over reaching their authority, by performing acts not voted on by the voters of the City of Orem.”

Pollei said, “We have literally spoken to hundreds of Orem residents and users of the facility and we have a unanimous outpouring of non-endorsement, non-ratification of the current pattern for tear down and rebuild fewer offerings than that that currently exists.”

The bond was set to improve the city’s Fitness Center, including construction of a suspended track, a community events room, indoor playground and all ancillary and related improvements. The indoor pools would originally stay open during the project.

The center will also have a sports lounge geared for teenagers, a bouldering wall and new family changing rooms.

Hirst said other fitness or rec centers in the county either have no or few racquetball courts. As for a firing range, it will cost over $1 million to replace the old one with a new one.

“It doesn’t make sense for government to provide parking by a high school so you can exit your car with a gun,” Hirst said.

It was since that election that construction crews said they could not do the mechanical work safely and in a timely manner if the pools remained open.

“We know there will be some short-term pain with the closure of the Fitness Center pool,” said Brenn Bybee, assistant city manager. “However, we now know that by reinvesting back into the new building what would have been over $500,000 in temporary expenditures to keep the indoor pool open, it will provide real long-term value, which our patrons will enjoy for decades to come.”

In a recent citizen survey conducted by the city, it showed by those who have used the facilities that 90% of the public would directly benefit from the projects.

The Fitness Center is expected to be closed for 18 months. During that time patrons and yearly pass holders have three options. The can get a complete refund. Pass holders can get one and a half times what they have left on their membership. For instances if you have six months left you will have nine months available when the center reopens.

Pass holders can double their discount rate and use the Orem Senior Friendship Center, which is being fitted with 12 cardio machines, weights and classrooms for yoga, spin, and Zumba classes.

“We were able to keep all the things the seniors do too,” Hirst said.

Hirst said his goal is to have a building breaking party in August with some kind of wrecking ball and to open the new facility in summer of 2021.

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