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The City Journals

Two Murray High graduates help bring a lot of recreation choices to community

May 17, 2018 03:53PM ● By Carl Fauver

Volleyball leagues are the most popular adult programs offered at the Park Center in Murray. (Cory Plant)

By Carl Fauver | [email protected]

A pair of Murray High School graduates — with nearly a half century of experience between them, working for the same employer — are among those keeping the recreation portion of the city’s parks and rec department purring along like a finely-oiled machine. 

“If you are passionate about what you do, your outcomes will reflect your efforts,” Murray Recreation Director Cory Plant said. He’ll tell you that’s an original quote from him, though a Google search may differ. But why quibble with the dean of Murray rec.

“I graduated from Murray High School in 1976 after playing football and baseball, wrestling and even cheerleading,” Plant said. “I suffered a knee injury and couldn’t play sports my senior year. That’s when I switched to cheerleading. I’ve just always loved being around sports… which is why I love it here." 

After earning two bachelor’s degrees and a master’s (sports management) all at the University of Utah, Plant began what is now a 33-year career at the Murray Recreation Department in 1984.

“I was a recreation coordinator my first 11 years, and became director in 1996,” he added. “When I started I was one of three full-time employees and we offered about 25 different sports programs. Now that we have added the Park Center in Murray, our number of full time employees is up to eight, and we administer more than 100 sporting activities.”

The Murray Recreation budget has also grown in that time, from about $150,000 to some $3 million.

One of those five full-time employees who have joined the department since Plant’s arrival is Marci Williams, the Park Center director. Back when bell bottoms and the Bee Gees were king, Willliams was a Murray High School sophomore at the same time Plant was a senior. 

“I graduated from Murray in 1978 — two years after Cory — and have worked in and around sports since before graduating,” Williams said. “I was in the private sector for more than 22 years, before accepting this job in July 2002, four months before the Park Center opened. I’m the only director they’ve had.”

Williams is just one of three full-time employees at the Park Center, though the facility also boasts about 165 part-timers. 

“We have so many different activities in here, including volleyball, basketball, a running track, weights, cardio equipment… not to mention two separate swimming pools,” she added. “One of my biggest frustrations is that I still run into people who tell me, ‘I didn’t know there’s a rec center in Murray Park.’ We’ve been open nearly 16 years. It’s time to come find us.” 

The Murray High School boys and girls swim teams and the Spartans’ water polo club teams have been using the recreation center’s pool since the facility opened. 

Memberships to the Park Center in Murray come in all sizes, shapes and costs, for individuals, couples, families and seniors. The center is also home to the Murray Recreation Department’s most popular adult activity.

“We have volleyball sessions year round, 2-on-2, 4-on-4, and full 6-on-6 games,” Plant said. “Over a year we’ll have close to 900 participants, though some of those are being counted more than once, if they play in multiple sessions.” 

Still, Plant is quick to add that this is not the Murray Recreation Department’s overall busiest program.

“We have about 1,500 participants in soccer every year,” Plant added. “That’s pre-K through 12th grade, playing on parks and rec fields and at local schools. We have a great working relationship with the Murray School District.”

Plant is also proud of the opening — less than a year ago — of six new, outdoor pickleball courts, near the Murray Boys and Girls Club. And, he said, kickball has also taken off in recent years. 

“We’re always trying something new to encourage people to get out and be active,” Plant added. “We’re looking at starting a wiffleball league and other things as well.” 

The overall number of people who participated in Murray rec activities last year was about 15,000, nearly double the 8,100 participants they had in Plant’s first year on the job. 

“To be the best, you have to work harder than the rest,” Plant concluded, again claiming the quote as his own. Don’t Google — let him own it. For a third of a century he’s been working hard to give Murray residents an awful lot to do. They should be way too busy to have time to check quote sources on their laptop. 

For information about Murray Recreation Department programs call 801-264-2614.  For questions specific to the Park Center in Murray dial 801-284-4271.