Manti City recreation complex
bearing fruit, attracting crowds
By James Tilson
MANTI—Plans for a new sports park in Manti have finally come to fruition, and the new complex is already bearing fruit for the city.
The Manti City Sports Park, on the north end of the city, has opened this summer, and is hosting tournaments and sports leagues, drawing visitors and new citizens from across the state.
“We, the mayor and the council, feel we can’t push people into any specific business,” said Manti City Recorder Kent Barton, “But what we can do is bring people into the community, and then if our businesses here position themselves through their own efforts to attract their market, then they can go to work on selling to people.”
According to Barton, the sports park is already showing signs of economic benefit. There hasn’t been any time to get any concrete data, but anecdotal evidence shows the parks has brought new people into town.
“I have heard young families come into the office, and say the presence of the sports park helped them make their decision to move here,” said Barton, pointing to their new tax base. He said it helps that the park is a multi-use facility, which can put on many kinds of recreational sports and events. “We may put in a volleyball pit, too, and maybe a walking path around the facility.”
Barton also said the recent softball tournament and soccer games bring in people from all over the state. He has seen fans with pizza boxes and bags with hamburgers from local restaurants, as well as people buying gas. “I don’t know exactly where the money is going or how much, but people are certainly using the facilities here,” he said.
The idea for the sports park started in 2012. Barton explained how the city had felt it was underserved in sports facilities for years. “We only had that one block over at the city park. Between soccer, baseball and flag football, we had over 100 teams using that space.”
The city sought funding from a variety of sources, including soliciting donations and contributions, funds from the Pageant dinners and eventually the Community Impact Board (CIB). “We had a well-developed proposal,” said Barton. “We had skin in the game, which meant we had about a million dollars of our own funding.”
In the end, in addition to the matching funds the city had already raised, Manti asked the CIB for $1.5 million grant, and a $1.5 million low-interest loan to finish the project. Their request was granted, and the city finally finished the sports park this summer in July.
Actually, the sports park was mostly finished last year, but could not be used until this year. “We planted grass in July of last year, and we had to wait for the grass to grow for a year before we could play any games on it,” said Barton.
Now that it’s completed, the city has high hopes the sports park will help to replace the revenue from the Mormon Miracle Pageant. Along with more sporting events, and perhaps community events and concerts, the city is actively working with the Rat Fink organizers to improve or enlarge those events.
“We know the Pageant is going away, and that’s been a great eight days for our businesses in the past,” related Barton. “But we don’t want to replace it with one great big event, but with a lot of little events throughout the year.”