The hidden cost of recreation centers

Jun 18, 2024, 7:00 PM

The front of the Holladay Lions salt lake county recreation center...

The Holladay Lions Recreation Center photographed in Millcreek on Monday, May 18, 2020. Recreation centers across the state are reportedly operating at a deficit every year.(Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Recreation centers across the state are operating at a deficit every year.

In a report from the Utah Taxpayers Association, only one of six recreation centers surveyed in 2022 turned a profit. The other centers operated at a loss of up to $3 million per year. That deficit is often paid in part using property taxes.

Vice President of the Utah Taxpayers Association, Mala Armstrong, spoke with Dave and Dujanovic this morning, saying money for rec centers will always come from residents.


“Maybe most people don’t realize that although they’re paying for it at the door, they’re also paying for it in their taxes,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong said they did this report to help people understand the overall costs of running a recreation center.

“We’re not trying to criticize the rec centers at all,” She said. “We understand that many people see them as an important asset to the community, but I think it is important for people to realize just how much they’re costing.”

Among the recreation centers surveyed in the report, operating expenses ranged from $1.9 million to nearly $7 million.

The Provo City recreation center was the only one to earn more revenue than its operating costs. But Provo’s operating profit was only $34,000. That’s less than one percent above its operating cost of $4.6 million.

When broken down, the individual tax burden of these deficits is less extreme. For example, the operating loss of the Davis County Recreation Center is approximately $2.9 million in 2022. That averages out to only $26 per year per household in Davis County.

“The reality is that residents are paying for it one way or the other,” Armstrong said. “It’s just a case of whether they want to see that in their property tax bill or if they want to see that in their monthly membership rate.”


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The hidden cost of recreation centers