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Big Sky Community Organization opens community forum on recreation facility planning

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In a group exercise, attendees were asked to create a pie-diagram to balance cost and amenities at a proposed community recreation center in Big Sky. PHOTO BY JACK REANEY

Either indoor or outdoor, Wednesday’s early brainstorm suggests the Big Sky community wants a pool.  

By Jack Reaney STAFF WRITER 

In a multipurpose room at BASE on Wednesday afternoon, more than 80 community members shared their imagination for a new recreation center in Big Sky.  

Around 50 people completed the recommended signup for Wednesday’s event hosted by the Big Sky Community Organization, and more than 80 attended. A duplicate session will be held on Thursday night, Oct. 27, with 30 people currently registered with unlimited space available. In partnership with Bozeman-based sustainable architecture and design firm inContour, BSCO organized a three-part discussion to gain feedback on a potential project which would address the needs of year-round community.  

“I think it’s remarkable that this many people want to be engaged in this process,” BSCO’s CEO Whitney Montgomery said. “I hope the workshop tomorrow evening is just as successful as this afternoon’s.”  

One table collaborates during the group portion of the afternoon. PHOTO BY JACK REANEY

To begin, inContour Owner and Principal Landscape Architect Lessa Millard facilitated a 30-minute brainstorm of recreational spaces that could fit community needs. 

The following are a few ideas suggested, in no particular order: 

A community pool, cost-free childcare, a library, shared kitchen space, an indoor track and/or turf field, art studio, a workshop or makerspace, a sauna, an outdoor workout facility, safe bike paths, an indoor ice rink, a music studio, an archery range, and an open basketball gym.  

More than one community member emphasized the importance of free access to the community for the new facility.  

A second round of brainstorming included solutions for general needs and wants in Big Sky. One person suggested a gondola connecting U.S. Highway 191 to Big Sky Resort with a mid-station in the Meadow Village.  

The gondola suggestion was met with some laughter, but other ideas seemed to garner serious consideration, including a pool with aquatic programs for swim teams, swim lessons, athletic training, among other possibilities.  

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

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

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

“I’ve been suggesting a pool for 30 of the 33 years I’ve lived here,” said one presenter. She noted that the cost of a full indoor aquatic center has been an obstacle, and said that with a less expensive 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 town, and we do seasonal sports. In the summer, we go outside. We don’t want to go inside, in a loud indoor aquatic center.” 

Other voices spoke to the potential fitness and mental health benefits of a year-round pool, and the challenge of heating an outdoor pool. In either capacity, a large portion of Wednesday’s discussion focused on the need for swimming access in Big Sky.  

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

“This is just the beginning of the community brainstorming process,” Millard told EBS. “At this point, there is no architect involved, there is no building or facility planning going on yet. This is all about finding what amenities the Big Sky community wants in their future recreation facility.” 

Design complexity and location will impact the timeline for the project, but no hard dates exist. 

“It’s going to take us a while to collect all the data, maybe through the end of December,” Montgomery told EBS. “But it’s going to take this whole group to fulfill whatever the next plan is. We all need to stay engaged in this process. We’ll figure out a way to communicate the results out.” 

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

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