Miller to retire after 41 years with Bountiful recreation programs

by Louise R. SHAW

BOUNTIFUL—Four months before graduating from BYU with a degree in recreation management, John Miller landed a job at what everyone called the Bountiful “Bubble,” organizing and running the basketball program and the ice rink.

That was in 1977 and now, 41 years later, Miller is retiring from a career supporting recreation programs in Bountiful, after spending the last 11 years as executive director of the South Davis Recreation District.

“I still plan on coming here and exercising every day,” said Miller from his office overlooking the parking lot, where a steady stream of clients come and go for their workouts and classes. “I’ve seen too many people who were active but then retire and stop and they just seem to go downhill quickly.”

Miller speaks enthusiastically about the benefits of being active and being involved in competition, and he’s enthusiastic about what the Davis Recreation Center offers the community.

“I have people come up to me all the time and say, ‘I voted against the rec center but I’m one of the faithful members now – I’m sure glad we have it in place,’” he said.

Five communities – from North Salt Lake to Centerville – had a chance to vote for the new center and the measure only narrowly passed, as Miller remembers.

“After 30 years, it was going to cost more to repair the old facility than to tear it down and build a new one,” he said. He complimented Joe Johnson, the Bountiful mayor at the time, and Tom Hardy, former city manager, for the foresight to build it.

Now people are waiting at the door at 4:30 a.m. when it opens, and clientele use the facility until it closes at 11 p.m. On Fridays and Saturdays, group parties run until 2 a.m.

“It is very, very popular,” he said. “It is exceeding our expectations. It is used far beyond what we anticipated.”

Some 7,500 memberships cover 21,500 individuals. More come to use the facilities without memberships, and pay a flat rate.

Swim classes normally involve 9,000 students a year and swim meets draw as many as 32 high schools and 1,100 swimmers. Hockey tournaments have been held involving people from all over the western United States.

The recreation center is the largest in Utah and its Junior Jazz program is also the largest in the state, according to Miller. And it has something for all ages and abilities.

“We pride ourselves here in being a big, family-friendly facility,” he said. “There is something here for everyone.”

Competing in teams is good for those who participate, said Miller.

“There is a lot of competition in life,” he said. “It is good to learn at a young age how to deal with it. Sports help you learn skills that will help you later in life.”

Johnson remembers when Miller was first offered the job as executive director.

“He told us he didn’t know if he was ready,” recalled Johnson. “I appreciated his humility and his willingness to learn and to step up.”

Miller worked hard, said Johnson, and “he managed magnificently well. I think he handled the job really, really well.”

Marti Money, chairman of the SDRD Board, was also complimentary:

“We are pleased with the years of exemplary care John has shown toward the district’s patrons, facilities, finances, programs and community,” he said, as quoted in a press release. “John’s emphasis on providing a space where individuals, families and visitors alike are welcome and have opportunities to grow through fitness and fun has made the Recreation Center a gem in our community for more than a decade.”

After his retirement, set for June 29, Miller plans to spend more time with his father, who is now 96, and at some point in the future, Miller and his wife, Cyndee, hope to serve an LDS mission. The two have four children and eight grandchildren.

Meanwhile, he has a triathlon in St. George coming up, which he will compete in with his daughter.

“I’ve been very fortunate to be able to have a job that I’ve been able to enjoy,” said Miller. “I’m not saying it’s been without challenges, but all in all, it’s been very beneficial to me and my family – and hopefully to the community.”

He credited the 12 full-time employees, who, along with 250 to 300 part-time employees, work to keep the machines in good repair and the facility clean – both major priorities for the center.

“It’s important for a community to have a facility like this for people to come and be physically active,” said Miller. “Being active is the best stress reliever. You can come here and work out and get rid of your stress and feel much better afterward.”

“It’s been a fun place to work,” he added. “It’s fun getting involved and getting to know people.” 

A search is now underway for his replacement. Applications were accepted through May 2.


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