Organization structure

Community organization Big Sky opens community forum on recreation facility planning

Whether indoors or outdoors, Wednesday’s brainstorm suggests the Big Sky community wants a pool.

By Jack Reney STAFF EDITOR

At a BASE multi-purpose hall on Wednesday afternoon, more than 80 community members shared their imaginations for a new recreation center in Big Sky.

About 50 people filled out the recommended registration for Wednesday’s event hosted by community organization Big Sky, and more than 80 attended. A doubles session will take place on Thursday evening, October 27, with 30 people currently registered with unlimited spaces available. In partnership with Bozeman-based architecture and sustainable design firm inContour, BSCO hosted a three-part discussion to get feedback on a potential project that would meet the needs of a year-round community.

“I think it’s remarkable that so many people want to be part of this process,” said BSCO CEO Whitney Montgomery. “I hope that tomorrow evening’s workshop will be as successful as this afternoon’s.”

A table collaborates during the afternoon group game. PHOTO BY JACK REANEY

To get started, inContour owner and lead landscape architect, Lessa Millard, led a 30-minute brainstorm on recreational spaces that could meet community needs.

Here are some suggested ideas, in no particular order:

A community swimming pool, free daycare, library, communal kitchen, indoor track and/or grass field, art studio, workshop or creative space, sauna, outdoor exercise room, safe bike paths, an indoor ice rink, a music studio, an archery range and an open basketball hall.

More than one community member highlighted the importance of free community access for the new install.

A second round of brainstorming included solutions for Big Sky’s general needs and wants. One person suggested a gondola connecting US Highway 191 at Big Sky Resort with a mid station in Meadow Village.

The gondola suggestion drew a few laughs, but other ideas seemed to be seriously considered, including a pool with aquatic programs for swim teams, swimming lessons, sports training, among other possibilities.

With many ideas listed, Millard had each table combine pre-cut slices into a pie chart to visualize costing and prioritization. She asked each table to come to a consensus, so that one member could present their suggestion to the whole group.

One team proposed a multi-faceted center including a library, ice rink and social spaces. PHOTO BY JACK REANEY

Most groups offered an aquatic facility at some capacity, ranging from hybrid models with libraries and resource centers to a dedicated pool with additional services like hot tubs and programs.

“I’ve offered a pool for 30 of the 33 years I’ve lived here,” said a presenter. She noted that the cost of a full indoor aquatic center has been a barrier and said that with a cheaper outdoor pool, “we could have people swimming next summer.”

“[An outdoor pool] is a huge community focus in every small town in Montana. We are a seasonal city and we play seasonal sports. In the summer we go out. We don’t want to go inside a noisy indoor aquatic center.

Others mentioned the potential benefits of a year-round swimming pool on physical fitness and mental health, as well as the challenge of heating an outdoor pool. Either way, much of Wednesday’s discussion focused on the need for swimming access to Big Sky.

The outdoor pool was proposed to retain funding for other amenities. The green stickers represent the first and second choices of the participants, who had the chance to vote. PHOTO BY JACK REANEY

“This is just the beginning of the community brainstorming process,” Millard told EBS. “At this stage, there is no architect involved, there is no ongoing construction or installation planning yet. It’s about finding the amenities the Big Sky community wants in their future recreation facility.

The complexity of the design and the location will impact the project schedule, but no specific date exists.

“It’s going to take us some time to collect all the data, maybe until the end of December,” Montgomery told EBS. “But it will take this whole group to pull off the next plan, whatever it is. We must all remain engaged in this process. We will find a way to communicate the results.

Montgomery added that funding will be the next step, as the current focus is to listen to the needs of the community.