GoPro CEO gives for family, community
By Bay Stephens EBS LOCAL EDITOR
BIG SKY – On July 27, the Big Sky Community Organization broke ground in Town Center Park for Big Sky’s first community center. The “ALL IN. BIG SKY” fundraising campaign for the center, which will be named BASE, has garnered approximately $19.5 million of its $20 million goal thanks to small donations and sizeable ones, such as an over $1 million check awarded to the project on the second night of the Big Sky PBR and a $4 million sum from GoPro founder and CEO Nick Woodman.
“It blows my mind now to get to live here with all of you in Middle Earth in 2019. This is the most special place that I’ve ever been able to be, let alone live with my family,” Woodman said during the ceremony. “… This is our biggest gift ever because we’re inspired by this place and we’re inspired by all of you and we’re inspired by the kiddos and we’re inspired by the impact we can make on this community.”
Woodman first came to Big Sky in 1996 to ski the newly trammed Lone Mountain; for the past seven years, he and his family have been visiting Big Sky but they committed to living in the area fulltime in December of 2018 to ensure quality time with their three young boys outside of the frenetic California pace of life they left behind. The family has a home in the Yellowstone Club and a cabin in Moonlight.
Woodman and his wife Jill were shocked to learn that the lawn of Town Center Park, a place they’d come to recognize as the physical center of Big Sky’s community, was slated for condominium development.
“So when we learned that there was a fundraising effort to actually buy the land and build the BASE community center, we immediately decided that we wanted to be a part of that because we wanted to preserve this energy core of Big Sky town for the community,” Woodman said.
Though Big Sky has a plethora of alcohol-serving establishments, its acute lack of public indoor space for kids to hang out in the winter made the donation a no brainer for the Woodmans, whose boys had struggled to meet friends without a central gathering place since moving to Big Sky.
“It started with our love of the lawn and grew into our overall love of the project and what it could do for the community,” Woodman said.
The $4 million donation from the Jill and Nicholas Woodman Foundation allowed BSCO to double the size of the center’s climbing wall to a total of 1,300 square feet with 20 different top rope routes and a bouldering area, according to a July 15 press release. The Woodman boys love rock climbing, according to their father.
The community center also received a financial boost at Big Sky PBR, the night before the groundbreaking ceremony, when Spanish Peaks Community Foundation President John Haas presented a $1.02 million check to BSCO Executive Director Ciara Wolfe for the community center.
“There are a lot of events that I’ve been to and a lot of philanthropic money handed out throughout those events, but I’ve never been there where $1 million was handed out,” PBR announcer Brandon Bates told the Friday night crowd.
Though Haas presented the check, it was not a gift from the Spanish Peaks Community Foundation, but directly from Spanish Peaks members as 70 of 320 club members rallied to support the project, Haas said. The amount coming from these members is still rising, and as of July 31, the sum had grown to approximately $1.087 million.
“Big Sky is made up of such an incredible group of people, and the diversity only adds to the power of the community,” Haas told EBS. “This community has come together to create an amazing building which will be a legacy for generations to come. The Spanish Peaks community is proud to be a part of this dream becoming a reality.”
Among the donors are Sam Byrne, a managing partner of Boston-based CrossHarbor Capital Partners, which owns the Yellowstone Club, Spanish Peaks and Moonlight Basin. The Big Sky Resort Area District also allocated $1.5 million of resort tax collections from the past year toward the project. To date, 241 donors, including full- and part-time residents, club members and partner organizations, have contributed to the project, according to Wolfe.
“This campaign represents how Big Sky has evolved from a sometimes desolate and seasonal resort destination to a thriving community of thousands of committed, year-round residents and compassionate part-time residents, all of whom truly love this place and its people,” Wolfe said in a press release.
BASE, which stands for “Big Adventure, Safe Environment,” has its origins in the Big Sky community’s desire for an indoor space public space that would allow recreation, a sentiment BSCO unearthed through a multi-month survey process.
BSCO bought the 3.3-acre parcel that underlies Town Center Park and the adjacent gravel parking lot in December of 2018, securing it as parkland in perpetuity. The organization then launched the most ambitious fundraising effort Big Sky has seen to date, “ALL IN. BIG SKY,” in April of this year to realize the project.
The campaign’s original fundraising goal was $17.5 million, but BSCO stretched their target to $20 million to avoid cutting parts of the project as construction costs escalated, according to a press release.
With the full $20 million, the organization also seeks to purchase 2.6 acres adjacent to the Big Sky Community Park surrounding the tennis courts for future recreation facilities, which could include an aquatic center, a facility the community prioritized during BSCO’s survey process.
Along with providing a substance-free space for youth, as well as a place for residents and visitors to recreate, BASE will house office space and facilities for four nonprofit organizations, Wolfe said, adding that she expects approximately 25 other groups will utilize the facility’s spaces in some capacity.
The community center is also geared to address common issues that are more acute in mountain towns, such as substance abuse, depression and suicide.
The infrastructure for the BASE community center will be installed once this summer’s Music in the Mountains concert series wraps up in early September, according to Wolfe. Construction will then cease for the winter to allow full use of the Town Center Ice Rink, and resume in the spring, with the center ideally opening the summer of 2021.