By Emily Stifler Explorebigsky.com Managing Editor
BIG SKY – Once upon a time, in 1999, the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce was at the corner where Lone Mountain Trail meets Highway 191.
Now, 14 years later, the visitors’ center will return to that spot, moving into the space previously occupied by Rivers to Peaks realty.
With $45,000 for rent and improvements in funding from the Big Sky Resort Tax Board set to start July 1, Chamber board member Shawna Winter has been negotiating with a representative for the property, Brian Dolan, to iron out the details of the lease.
“This is big, big, big news,” said Chamber chairman David O’Connor.
At 3,200 sq. feet, the building is much larger than the current 2,000 sq. foot office. Because it’s visible from the highway, it should draw more drive-by traffic.
“We’ve had huge community support,” O’Connor said. “It’s so important to everybody—being the welcoming committee and being able to roll out the red carpet.”
Since 2000, the Chamber has been tucked away in a hard to find office in the West Fork. That’s why the resort tax board voted unanimously to fund the new building, resort tax chairman Les Loble said.
“I suspect [the Chamber of Commerce] is one of the first places tourists think of as a place to go for information,” Loble said. “Having it right there at the turnoff is the best possible place.”
With bay windows looking out at Lone Mountain and Gallatin Canyon, the new space is “perfect” for a visitors’ center, said Chamber membership and program director Robin Brower-McBride. “The best of Big Sky is within view, it’s really cool.”
The building also has offices, a great room, and a small boardroom.
O’Connor dreams that some day the other buildings on the corner property could house local nonprofits like the Arts Council of Big Sky and the Big Sky Community Corp., an idea first presented by Brower-McBride.
“It could be a community center,” O’Connor said. “All those things under one roof—parks, trails, arts—all able to work together. When we start thinking about all those possibilities it gets our minds reeling.”