ST. GEORGE — Accomplishments and growth the city experienced over the last year were highlighted during Mayor Michele Randall’s State of the City address at the Dixie Convention Center on Tuesday afternoon. Officials also shared news of what is yet to come – such as a movie studio to be built in partnership with Hollywood actor Kevin Costner.

St. George Mayor Michele Randall speaks to St. George News about takeaways from the 2024 State of the City address, St. George, Utah, Feb. 13, 2024 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

The movie studio, Territory Studios, will be built along Southern Parkway near Exit 7, which leads to the St. George Regional Airport. Details about the project were shared during a video hosted by local realtor Macrae Happler who is known for producing a series on YouTube highlighting incoming developments in Washington County.

“Recently a lot of people have known Kevin Costner filmed a movie here – “Horizon” – and he really liked the area,” Heppler said in the video. “So he’s actually partnered with land owners out here and will be doing a film studio that’s going to be a massive addition to the performing arts industry of St. George.”

The studio complex is slated to feature 70,000 square feet of sound stages, 51,000 square feet of production warehouses, 31,750 square feet of production offices and offer tours to the public while productions are underway.

A Kevin Costner-themed restaurant will also be a part of the development, Heppler said.

Southern Parkway projects of note

This file photo shows the groundbreaking for the new Smith’s Marketplace by the SunRiver community in St. George, Utah, Oct. 3, 2023 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Heppler’s overall video, which Randall asked him to produce for the State of the City address, focused on incoming projects along the Southern Parkway.

“And that’s where a lot of the development will continue to go is down off the parkway,” Randall said.

Highlights included the Smith’s being built on the western side of Interstate 15’s Exit 2, which broke ground last fall. On the eastern side of the exit, a new Moto Zoo motorsports store is being built. A large national retailer that Heppler said people “will be excited about” is also in negotiations to be built in the same area.

In the Desert Color area, a Megaplex luxury theater complex that will offer a dining experience for people watching movies on the big screen and house a luxury bowling alley is set to be built. Also planned for the area further south is a 38-acre property where an Intermountain Health complex will be built.

At Exit 3, which connects River Road to the Southern Parkway, Utah Tech University’s south campus aims to create an “innovation district,” which will host several research and development companies for interaction purposes. This 20-year project will focus on genomics, desert technologies and endurance-extreme human performance.

Other projects and diversifying the economy

People gather at the Dixie Convention Center to hear from St. George Mayor Michele Randall during the 2024 State of the City address, St. George, Utah, Feb. 13, 2024 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

In St. George proper, the mayor noted two new businesses set to move into St. George Place (the shopping center between Main Street and Bluff Street where K-Mart used to be): Hobby Lobby and REI Coop.

“There are several other retailers that I think you’ll be really excited about,” Randall said. “As soon as they give us permission, we’ll be announcing those.”

While speaking to St. George News following the address, the mayor said the various businesses were a good example of the city diversifying its economy.

“I hope people take away that we are growing, but we’re not just growing homes, we’re growing businesses, which is really important,” she said. “With the studio that Kevin Costner’s partnering with, that’s just another arm to our economic revenue. Instead of construction that we’ve always been so tied to, now we have Tech Ridge, now we’ll have a movie studio.”

Tech Ridge is the growing technology business park that has become home to various tech-based companies and supplied high-paying jobs for its employees. Overall plans for the tech park include retail space, hotels, residential units and a community center. Once built out, Tech Ridge is estimated to create an annual economic impact of $3.42 billion, the mayor said.

While the city loves and supports its builders and the construction industry, Randall said the city also wants to diversify the economy so it isn’t so reliant on any one particular industry.

“We found out in 2008 what can happen if your … portfolio overwhelmingly is building,” she said.

Infrastructure and water

City Manager John Willis shares details on city infrastructure over the last year during the 2024 State of the City address, St. George, Utah, Feb. 13, 2024 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

The mayor had City Manager John Willis speak on city infrastructure and related items, which included a rundown of how many building permits the city had issued over the last year.

2023 saw a dip in the issuance of building permits for single-family homes compared to 2022 with 617 to 836 respectively. However, there was a jump in permits for multifamily homes such as condos, townhomes and apartments with 416 in 2023 compared to 2022’s 301.

A total of 2,419 building permits were issued by the city in 2023 with a total valuation of $328.5 million. As of the end of January this year, the city has issued 363 total permits with a valuation of $77.8 million.

“That’s almost 25% of the amount of valuation we had for 2023,” Willis said. “Needless to say, we’re very optimistic on 2024. This is going to be a great year.”

Willis also spoke about the city’s water conservation efforts that involved the city replacing the 200,000 square feet of grass at three Little Valley soccer fields with artificial turf. Willis said that will save the city 16 million gallons of water annually. In addition to the soccer fields, the city also removed 279,000 square feet of sod since 2022 for an additional 17.8 million gallons of water saved.

With over 2,800 new connections added to the city’s water system since 2017, water use has also dropped by 250 million gallons.

“That’s a credit to everyone who is doing their part,” Willis said.

Quality of life (arts and recreation)

This file photo shows a list of pending parks and recreation projects to be pursued by the city of St. George’s Parks and Community Services over the next two fiscal years, St. George, Utah, Feb. 8, 2024 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Randall returned and thanked residents who voted to pass a 25-year, $29 million general obligation bond for parks, trails and recreation projects. Passed last November with 63% of the vote, the bond allows the city to move forward on a large number of recreation-related projects across the city over the next couple of years. Many of those projects were highlighted in a recent City Council meeting.

“Now comes the hard part of making the magic happen,” the mayor said.

Specific projects highlighted were pending renovations to the Dixie Sunbowl that will include the installation of bleachers and post-tension concrete flooring that city officials hope promotes more frequent use of the Sunbowl and not just the annual Dixie Roundup Rodeo (which the mayor said celebrates its 90th year in 2024). The Thunder Junction All-Abilities Park will also see an expansion thanks to the recreation bond.

Other events marking anniversaries this year are Art Around the Corner, which turns 20, and the St. George Arts Festival, which turns 45.

Randall announced the creation of a new city event called “Dixie Days,” which will celebrate the history and heritage of the city in a similar vein to Peach Days in Hurricane and Cotton Days in Washington City. Dixie Days is set to take place during the second week of September.

This file photo shows pickleball players playing at the Little Valley Pickleball Complex during an event celebrating the recent expansion of the facility to 33 courts, St. George, Utah, Jan. 31, 2024 | Photo by Mori Kessler. St. George News.

The city also renovated the St. George Golf Clubhouse and saw increased membership in its Junior Association of Golfers program last year.

The mayor touched on the historic preservation of the Sugarloaf, also known as the Dixie Rock. The Sugarloaf was recognized as a historic landmark by the Utah Historic Preservation Office and was made a part of the National Register of Historic Places last August. And plans to build an interpretive trail at Pioneer Park will tell the early history of St. George.

The expansion of the Little Pickleball Complex to 33 courts, including a championship court, was also mentioned. The expansion makes the complex the biggest pickleball facility in the state.

Public safety

Public safety highlights included the groundbreaking of a new fire station, the next Station 1, in downtown St. George on 400 East and 100 South. The city’s Fire Department has outgrown the original Station 1 on 1000 East and will have a larger facility to move into once the new station is built.

Work on Station 10 in the Desert Canyons area also continues and is anticipated to wrap up by early fall.

The St. George Police Department received new firearms with laser optics for better aiming. The department is also starting a four-day summer camp for sixth to eighth graders called SPEAR, or Students, Police, Education, Achievement, and Resiliency. The program focuses on creating better relationships between law enforcement officers and students.

“What a great outreach program,” the mayor said. “We’re so grateful they’ve decided to do this.”


A rendering of what an air traffic control tower for the St. George Regional Airport may look like once built | Image courtesy of the city of St. George, St. George News

While the city’s transportation projects were covered in greater detail in the Dixie Transportation Expo being held nearby, Randall went over major projects yet to take place or continuing from last year.

A project currently wrapping up its design phase is a new bridge that will span the Virgin River and be a part of the George Washington Boulevard extension between River Road west to Crosby Way. Randall said the city hopes to see construction start on the project sometime in the fall.

Work continues on improvements to 3000 East, which recently saw the conclusion of the fourth phase of road work. Phases 5 and 6 are being combined into one with work starting in April. Previous work on 3000 East had transformed it into a five-lane roadway with a pedestrian and bike path alongside it.

Related to 3000 East is the Southern Hills Parkway, a roadway that is designed to connect 3000 East to the Southern Parkway once built.

While there are a handful of projects underway at the St. George Regional Airport, Randall highlighted the need for an air traffic control tower. The Federal Aviation Administration approved the airport for a control tower two years ago and the city has until 2027 to build the facility. In order to be able to build it, however, the city needs additional funding.

City officials are currently working with the Utah Legislature to acquire funding for the project.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2024, all rights reserved.