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Ophir Students provide input on Big Sky community recreation center

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On a recent field trip to Big Sky Town Center, Ophir Elementary School fourth graders were posed the question, “What do you think Big Sky Town Center needs to build?”

Among a sea of enthusiastic answers ranging from a bigger skate park to a pump track for dirt bikes, emerged a recurring response of “a rec center.” Inspired by the idea, the kids returned to the classroom, and for the next few weeks worked in pairs to design their dream rec center for Big Sky.

Dylan Efferson’s concept drawing for a four-story rec center.

On May 21, the class presented the ideas to BSCO Executive Director Ciara Wolfe and EBS publisher Eric Ladd.

The fourth graders worked on their design ideas with direction from their teachers, Jeremy Harder and Renee Zimmerman, to be efficient with space and think about what the community needs in a rec center. Some students used good old fashioned pencil and paper, while others used cutting edge architectural software to craft their designs.

When asked what needs to be in a rec center the most common responses were:

1. Pool. The students envisioned a mixed-use pool with slides, diving boards, a lap and kid pool and, as any good fourth grader imagination would lead them—a wave pool.
2. Workout room. “For mom and dad,” one student clarified.
3. Multi-use courts for basketball, soccer, a rock climbing wall and walking track.
4. Kids room. But, one student said, “not babysitting; something way cooler and more fun.”
5. Coffee, juice and salad bar.
6. Yoga room.

Some of the more creative ideas included:

1. Indoor garden
2. Virtual reality room
3. Bowling alley
4. Dance space and room for martial arts
5. Art studio and science room

A “foam pit” quickly became a crowd favorite as did a “batting cage” and “trampoline room.”

As the students presented their ideas, the need for a rec center to help host activities that Big Sky does not have dedicated space for became increasingly clear. When asked how many of the children’s parents drive them to Bozeman for extracurricular activities like swim lessons, gymnastics or other sports, more than 70 percent of the class raised their hands. When asked where they would like to see the facility built and why, the general response was “near Town Center,” somewhere close enough they could walk or ride their bikes to, “but somewhere not too busy so it’s safe to bring dogs and kids to play outside.”

Many expressed sentiments that there is not a lot to do at night during the winter and off-seasons, one of the primary reasons they would like to see a rec center built soon. There was also a strong thread about how much fun it would be to bring friends and visitors to a rec center to play, and give their parents a break.

Building a community recreation center in Big Sky is an idea that has been talked about for years, and groups have made efforts to make this a reality a few times, with no success. Recent efforts led by BSCO, Town Center developers and some passionate locals have made the project a potential reality again. And if the fourth graders of Ophir School have a vote, it was a 100 percent “yes” that Big Sky needs a rec center.

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