By Bella Butler EBS STAFF
BIG SKY – On a brisk February morning, sunlight pours through floor-to-ceiling windows in the new BASE community center in Big Sky Town Center. Everything about the space is big, from the scope of recreation to the investment to the building itself. And if you ask those invested in the monumental community project’s creation, they say the biggest component of BASE is the impact.
After years of anticipation, BASE will open to the public on March 13, offering recreation, wellness programs and gathering space under the mission for which it’s named: Big Adventure, Safe Environment.
Though decades old, the town of Big Sky has never had a formal community center that resembles BASE. According to Big Sky Community Organization CEO Whitney Montgomery, BASE will be an avenue of connection.
“Without a gathering space, the community will remain fragmented,” he said.
The hope for BASE is to provide connection; a physical space to fuse these fragments.
A BSCO undertaking, shovels broke ground on BASE in July 2019, though supply chain challenges and a fraught construction environment pushed the original opening date in December 2021 to the current March date. The need for a community center was initially identified in a 2017 survey conducted by BSCO, where Big Sky residents identified it as their No. 1 priority.
After purchasing the land for the building and an adjacent park in 2018, BSCO launched a fundraising campaign that raked in nearly $20 million.
“It was a big investment by the community, for the community,” said BASE Director Madeleine Feher.
Now a vision realized, the modern structure is a focal point in Town Center, it’s façade boldly adorned with the word COMMUNITY.
The most visual component of BASE is recreation, a priority initiative in the Our Big Sky Vision and Strategy plan published by community partners in 2019. Montgomery said that while Big Sky offers year-round recreation largely in the form of outdoor sports like skiing, BASE will be a place to recreate in various other ways, even on frigid days like those seen in late February.
According to Feher, the recreational planning inside the building sought to mimic the scale of recreation in the landscape surrounding Big Sky.
“That big adventure is something that we’re used to in this environment,” she said, gesturing to the mountains in perfect view from the BASE windows. “We have a really big ski hill, and we live really big lives, right? And when you think of your community center, you have to go big.”
This was the intention, she said, behind some of BASE’s featured recreational spaces. A large portion of BASE’s ground floor is occupied by a gymnasium with six basketball hoops, pickle ball and volleyball courts, and equipment for other activities. Feher says this space will be bustling with pick-up and league games. The gym also includes a walking track around the space.
Another standout recreational offering in BASE is its climbing and bouldering wall. At 25 feet with space for 15 routes and a bouldering-specific area, it’s the first of its kind in Big Sky.
Feher said BASE partnered with Spire Climbing Center in Bozeman to set routes on the wall, and a BASE staff member will oversee the space. The wall and climbing programs will also be supported by a volunteer Climbing Task Force.
Upstairs, a fully equipped workout facility faces Lone Mountain. This space will host many of BASE’s fitness classes, including yoga and strength and spin programs, among others. Feher said many of these programs are included in memberships and funded through a grant from the Behavioral Health Coalition, a local partnership founded to address behavioral health needs in the community, but specialty programs offered for limited time periods will cost extra.
Eileen Coil, formerly with Lone Peak Physical Therapy, started with BASE in January as its fitness and wellness manager. Coil’s position is also funded through the Behavioral Health Coalition grant and is intended to focus programming at BASE that will foster mind and body wellness, Feher said.
“She just has that mindset of ‘I want to make you better, and I want to help you get there, and I’ll give you the tools and let’s see where it takes us,’” Feher said of Coil, who will be teaching fitness classes in addition to developing programming.
Highlighting artistic adventure, BASE will also be the new home of the Arts Council of Big Sky. After being tucked away in the same location for 15 years, ACBS Executive Director Brian Hurlbut said the central location will provide the council more interface with the community.
“We’re going to have a lot more visibility with our staff within the community which is something that we’ve always wanted,” Hurlbut said.
The arts council will have both its office and an art classroom in BASE. The classroom will include six pottery wheels and a kiln for pottery classes, a feature Hurlbut said his team is “over the moon” about. The organization hopes to have other classes in the space, as well, overseen by a full-time studio manager and teacher.
Behind the adventure, Montgomery and Feher both said they envision BASE’s recreational opportunities as avenues for connection.
Looking at the climbing wall from the lounge area, Montgomery painted a picture of each of the 15 routes occupied by climbers, some who know each other, some who don’t.
“You’re communicating, you’re creating a connection on the climbing wall,” he said.
Feher emphasized this opportunity.
“The ‘Big Adventure’ is not necessarily how high our wall is,” she said. “It’s what we’re able to provide in terms of scope for the community and a place that’s safe and impactful.”
Stay tuned for continued coverage of BASE leading up to the March 13 opening.