The Marshall N. White Center has been a staple in Ogden for decades, but in recent years, the recreational center has run into many issues, leading to many in the community calling for renovations.
The recreation center opened its doors in 1968, dedicated after the late Sgt. Marshall N. White, who was killed on duty, and it was the first building in Utah to be named after a person of color.
It offers a multitude of low-cost services, programs and activities for people of all ages, including classes for cooking, dancing, boxing and many others.
One of the main attractions, however, is the indoor swimming pool, as it is the only year-round community swimming pool in the Ogden area.
Despite this fact, the pool has been closed since 2018. This means Ogden is approaching its fourth year without a community swimming pool, and its residents have had to venture outside if they want to find a place to swim.
This is not the only service that has been closed. The weight room, along with other classes the community center provides, have also been closed or canceled. Although they were canceled for a time, they have since been brought back and are open for residents to get involved once more.
The Ogden City Council began advocating for a renovation of the building in 2020, but conversations surrounding its current state have been going around even before the indefinite closure of the swimming pool.
One of the first things to come out of this process was the reinstatement of the Marshall White Advisory Committee, which works on cost and programming and getting feedback from the community about the future of the facility. The committee also works with architects from VBCO, a company known for their work with recreation centers.
Currently, they are on step three of five, which includes getting opinions on the current plans for the future, including the concept drawings of the soon-to-be updated building.
“I would say the council has not done anything in the last couple of years beyond reinstating that committee and discussing how we want to go about the process, but I think now we’re really getting to a point where it’s getting solidified in a way that we feel like there’s a possibility for something to actually happen versus just conversations to happen,” Angela Choberka, member of the Ogden City Council, representing District 1, said.
One of the issues the Council and advisory committee have had to keep in mind is where the funding for this project will come from and deciding on if it should be publicly funded or privately funded by a non-profit organization, among other possibilities.
Taylor Knuth, an Ogden resident, mentions these conversations have been talked about since the beginning of the Marshall N. White Center, dating back to the mid-to-late 1960s.
“Should the city be in the business of public recreation? Can we afford the center? Does the center belong in this neighborhood? Those headlines, they were literally written in the ’60s, and we’re just reinventing them today,” Knuth said.
He also states that, throughout the decades, there has been a multitude of news stories relating to issues surrounding the pool and the programming at the facility.
“Today’s conversations, they’re critical, they’re important, and I wouldn’t be engaging in them if I didn’t think we couldn’t make a difference,” Knuth said.
While there have been conversations about where the building should be located, it has remained in the same spot due to accessibility for the people living in the surrounding neighborhoods. It is also the area where things like the homeless shelter and non-profit providers are located, making it easier for residents to get access to the resources they need.
Choberka became interested in the Marshall N. White Center while working on a project at United Way of Northern Utah.
The Ogden United Promise neighborhood project had a goal of figuring out how to support families in Ogden so they can be successful in academics and the future through accessibility of programs and resources outside of school.
This led her to think more about the community center’s future and her involvement in the remodeling of the building when she became part of the city council.
“Our community is really owed a debt to help to support through this kind of asset that’s also in the community for everybody to access,” Choberka said.
Knuth became interested in the project when he was a member of the Ogden City Diversity Commission following the closure of the swimming pool in 2018.
The committee’s involvement was influenced by the center’s history, with the communities of color in the neighborhoods surrounding it and Ogden City as a whole.
Since then, Knuth has actively stayed involved in the process of getting the building renovated, even after leaving the diversity commission.
An idea he had was the possibility of a partnership between Weber State and the Marshall N. White Center due to the university’s wide-scale connection to the city of Ogden. This could include access to the resources provided by the facility with a Wildcat ID for little-to-no cost.
“The future Damian Lillard could be playing basketball at the Marshall White Center right now, and Damian did play at the Marshall White Center,” Knuth said. “Even Congressman Blakemore played ball at the Marshall White Center, so who are we failing to serve when we don’t provide this public service? What kids are being left behind when we don’t make space for our community?”
One way Knuth and Choberka recommend getting involved is participating in open houses the advisory committee puts together. In January, there will be three opportunities for community members to participate.
The first open house will be on Jan. 18 from 6-8 p.m. at the Marshall N. White Center.
The second open house will be on Jan. 20 at the same time, but at the Ben Lomond Athletic Center.
The third one will be on Jan. 26 at 6:30-7:30 p.m. Rather than being at a physical location, it will be held over Zoom. The link will be available on the Marshall N. White Center webpage.
These open house events are a way for the community to ask questions and give feedback on different concepts the architects from VCBO for the remodeling of the building.
“The goal is to get as much feedback from all over Ogden as possible,” Sean Bishop, a member of the Marshall N. White Advisory Committee, said.
Another method would be for the community to voice their opinions about the Marshall N. White Center and getting in contact with local representatives over the phone or by email.