News from the Knoff Group

New recreation center in the works for Livingston – Livingston Enterprise

As our communities grow, new resources are needed – this is one proposed recreation center out of three for the area that are currently being discussed.

New recreation center in the works for Livingston
by Sean Batura Enterprise Staff Writer Mar 8, 2023

Officials with 4 Ranges Community Recreation Foundation Inc. say they’ve obtained philanthropic commitments of $18.7 million from donors and anticipate $4.5 million in other funding to go toward the construction of a new recreation center in Livingston, which would include a large indoor pool.

The foundation proposes to raise enough funds to build 4 Ranges Wellness Center, which it describes as a multi-use recreational complex with amenities in Livingston for residents to enjoy year-round. The facility is envisioned as “a comprehensive community recreation complex” of almost 50,000 square feet, at an estimated cost of $33 million, according to Proposed amenities include a recreational pool and separate lap pool, double-width gymnasium, elevated running track, studio space, classrooms, locker rooms, offices and a large community room.

“We have to get to roughly $30 million to pull this off, so we’re asking people to join us,” said Chase Rose, who is assisting the foundation as the principal of Bozeman-based fundraising consultant firm Bannack Group LLC.

“We are asking folks to consider a gift at a level meaningful to them.”Livingston city officials have suggested the new recreation center could be built on the site of the current Civic Center.“We are open to funding any site that provides walkability from the schools and qualifies for federal funding,” said Andrew Field, chairman of 4 Ranges Community Recreation Foundation.

The City Commission voted unanimously Tuesday evening to enter into a memorandum of understanding with 4 Ranges to “collaborate to explore opportunities to provide recreation facilities and programs that will serve the residents and visitors of the City of Livingston and Park County,” in the language of the MOU. The MOU doesn’t obligate the city to fund any project or require that a certain site be chosen for a new rec center.

“I think this is a great opportunity,” said commission Vice-Chair Karrie Kahle during Tuesday’s meeting. “This is a starting point.”

Kahle said the decision on the wellness center will ultimately be up to the citizens at the ballot.It’s proposed that residents be asked to decide on whether to create a special district to help fund parks and recreation amenities in the city, including the wellness center. During Tuesday’s meeting, Livingston City Manager Grant Gager told commissioners the plan so far is to have the question of a special district placed on the November ballot.The wellness center operating budget is estimated at $1.4 million, with $900,000 being generated from taxes and $500,000 being generated from memberships, according to the foundation’s project website.

A crowd packed the commission chambers during the meeting, most of whom appeared to be there for the wellness center agenda item. At least two dozen people, including some school district staff and students, addressed the commission on the topic. Most expressed support for a wellness center but residents were divided on where it should go. Some preferred the Civic Center site as proposed, while others warned of flood risks, environmental concerns or spoke of a desire to preserve the historic building.Patricia Grabow, president of the Livingston Downtown Building Owners and Business Association and a former City Commissioner, said the Civic Center site “is unstable” and it would be “a disaster to put the wellness center in that location.”

“Do not tear down our wonderful, magnificent Civic Center,” said Grabow, who sits on the Park County Historical Society board.

Wendy Weaver, executive director at Montana Freshwater Partner, also warned of risks associated with the river. She told the commission FEMA will be mapping the area floodplain zones and said if the Civic Center site “falls within the floodplain, this will be a significant risk.” She urged officials not to build “in high-risk zones like the channel migration zone and the floodplain along the river.”Foundation officials indicated they aren’t concerned with flooding at the Civic Center site or other environmental problems.

“We’ve done initial geotechnical engineering surveys that dug test pits at low and high water marks that suggested there was no sign of water or debris from the landfill,” Rose told the Livingston Enterprise after the meeting. “However, out of an abundance of caution, we have proposed to the city that we do an additional study with deeper test pits to ensure the site is conducive for building.”

Rose said one of the benefits to the Civic Center site is the city already owns it, so no funds would have to be expended for land purchases. Other benefits, he said, include the site’s proximity to schools, low-income residents, accessibility to city utilities and its location in a zone that qualifies investors for tax credits. The foundation expects to be able to sell tax credits for $4.5 million, which would help fund the wellness center project.

Losing the tax credits and having to buy 10 acres somewhere “would cost millions” and the foundation would “struggle to reach our goal,” he said.

“I grew up in Clyde Park … and played basketball for years at the Civic Center,” Rose told the Enterprise on Monday. “These facilities served us well, but it’s time for an indoor, year-round facility that meets the needs and desires of the community.”

Foundation officials told the commission their group would raise money for residents of limited means to help them afford memberships at the proposed facility. This could consist of free memberships or partially subsidized memberships, depending on the circumstances, they said.

“The Foundation is committed to raising money after construction ensuring the facility is fully accessible to all regardless of their ability to pay,” reads the foundation’s website. “We are confident we can accomplish that goal, while ensuring memberships are some of the most affordable anywhere in Montana.”

To see conceptual images and other potential amenities at the proposed facility, click here.

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