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West Valley City Journal

West Valley City turns 40

Jun 01, 2020 12:58PM ● By Darrell Kirby

By Darrell Kirby | [email protected]

It was July 1, 1980 in America and a campaign was well underway that would lead to the election of Ronald Reagan in November as the 40th president of the United States. 

July also saw the start of the Summer Olympics in Moscow that the U.S. and a host of other countries would boycott because of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. 

The Oldsmobile Cutlass was the best-selling car in America that year.  

Paul McCartney’s “Coming Up” topped the Billboard pop chart. “M*A*S*H” and “Three’s Company” tied for the highest-rated TV shows that week. Weeks earlier, the Jazz finished their first season in Utah after relocating from New Orleans. 

Oh, and West Valley City was born. 

Yes, it was 40 years ago on July 1 that West Valley City became an incorporated municipality. By the slimmest of margins in February 1980, voters in the communities of Granger, Hunter and Redwood cast their ballots in favor of cityhood and of determining the fledgling city’s future course instead of Salt Lake County government. 

Undaunted, opponents of incorporation quickly gathered enough petition signatures to put the matter of undoing the election results to another vote just a week later, on July 8. It failed and West Valley City could look to the future with surety. It was rough going at first. Money was tight, but as time went on, West Valley began to gain its financial footing and by the start of the 1990s, it was on a solid foundation that continues today. Recent years have seen unprecedented residential, commercial and industrial growth that has nearly doubled the city’s population of 72,000 in 1980 to almost 140,000 today, making it Utah’s second-largest city. 

As West Valley City turns 40, here is a look at some of the key events that have shaped what the city is today: 

1983 - Pioneer Valley Hospital opened, The facility still stands today under the name of Jordan Valley Medical Center-West Valley Campus. 

1990 - The current city hall was built. The city cash-flowed the construction—an indication of how financial times improved—and finally had a permanent home instead of the converted warehouse it used the previous decade to house government operations. 

1997 - The E Center opened as an additional area venue to host concerts, sporting and other events. Now called the Maverik Center, it is the home of the Utah Grizzlies minor league hockey team, which moved to West Valley City from Denver the previous year. The arena had its moment on the world stage when it hosted ice hockey during the 2002 Winter Olympics. 

1999 - The West Valley City Family Fitness Center opened. The facility and surrounding Centennial Park gave the city a centrally located recreation and social gathering spot. Its presence spurred the development of nearby vacant fields into homes and commercial development, making the 5600 West corridor one of the busiest in the city. 

2003 - The Utah Cultural Celebration Center opened its doors. It is a key city venue for theater productions, concerts and a variety of cultural events to celebrate the cultural and ethnic diversity of West Valley City. 

2010 - Valley Fair Mall, which opened in 1970, underwent a complete makeover, including the renovation of the indoor portion of the shopping center and the addition of an outdoor component of eateries and specialty shops. 

2011/2012 - The UTA TRAX and bus hub known as West Valley Central Station opened near City Hall and marked the start of a development called Fairbourne Station. It now includes multifamily housing, a public parking structure, the city’s new police department building (2019), Granger Medical Clinic (2020), and an office and commercial tower that should be completed this year as the city’s tallest building. It’s all part of an effort to create a “downtown” core for West Valley City. 

2019 - The ribbon was cut on the aforementioned police headquarters building. The structure marks the first time in West Valley’s history that the department has had a place to call its own with all the attendant state-of-the-art resources needed for policing Utah’s second-most populous city. The police department previously shared a building with the fire department. 

2020 - It began several years ago and has exploded lately with construction underway seemingly everywhere in West Valley City’s northwest quadrant—a corridor of light industrial buildings, making the city a growing hotspot for warehouses and associated transportation to move goods in and out of those facilities to and from points all over the western U.S. and beyond.

There are, of course, many other milestones and events that have occurred since 1980 that have transformed the city from barely surviving at birth to a mature adult that has grown to be strong and healthy four decades later. 

Happy 40th birthday, West Valley City.