City proposes Lions Park as new site for aquatics facility
The city is adjusting it’s plan for the joint indoor aquatics and recreation center to a new site.
Initially, the city planned the facility for a site adjacent to the city soccer park, near Loy Elementary and Malmstrom Air Force Base in a grant proposal to the U.S. Defense Department.
After being selected for the $10 million grant, with a $10 million match from the city, the design team determined that the soil conditions on that site would require a foundation at an estimated $2.7 million, or $95 per square foot, a price that would make the project financially unfeasible.
Since determining the realities of the Loy site, which is still owned by Great Falls Public Schools, the city and its design team worked with DoD and Malmstrom to find a new location.
During the Jan. 5 commission work session, the team said they propose using a portion of Lions Park at 2701 10th Ave. S.
The city had looked at Kiwanis Park and suggested it to Malmstrom officials, but they suggested Lions Park instead, according to City Manager Greg Doyon.
Both Kiwanis and Lions parks have favorable soils, according to Dani Grebe, an architect and partner at LPW Architects, the city’s contractor for the project, along with TD&H Engineering.
After completing geotech work, Grebe said that the foundation cost would be $40 per square foot, or about $775,000, at both Lions or Kiwanis parks.
That price allows the project to have the cash flow projections that make it sustainable, Grebe and Doyon said.
The Neighborhood Council has been made aware of the proposal, according to city staff.
At Lions Park, the facility would be 44,934 square feet with a recreation pool, 25-meter lap pool, walking track, two multipurpose rooms, child watch, fitness space and a full-size gym with two side courts, Grebe said.
The design team is planning focus group and community meetings to refine the facility features and will get started on the full design process this week, Grebe said.
The project will go through the city’s permitting process, including planning board and commission approvals, for a conditional use permit within the park zoning at Lions Park. At Kiwanis Park, the project would require a full rezone, according to the city planning department.
The design at Lions will account for existing park features and trees, Grebe said.
Under the grant requirements, the city needs to start moving dirt on the project by Sept. 28 and complete the project within five years of the grant award, which was September 2019.
Park and Recreation Department Director Steve Herrig said Lions Park is about 17 acres and the proposed facility and associated parking would take up about four acres of the park.
Commissioner Tracy Houck said she was going through documents related to the city’s 2016 Park and Recreation Master Plan and was reminded that an indoor pool facility was identified as a community need. That plan was used to develop the park maintenance district, which is a special assessment on taxpayers, to fund park and rec needs.
“The community has asked for this,” Houck said.
The former park and rec director said several times during his tenure that he recommended a joint aquatics and recreation facility as the Natatorium was structurally failing and usage was low.
Doyon has publicly said that once the new joint facility is complete he would recommend closure of the city’s current Community Recreation Center on 2nd Avenue North.
Once completed, the city would own and operated the facility and there would be fees for usage for all users to support ongoing maintenance and operations. Herrig said during the Jan. 5 meeting that Park and Rec currently receives general fund support for aquatics and the rec center and would apply those funds to the new center once it’s open. Doyon has said in several public meetings that he’s considering various ways for the facility to generate revenue to reduce the need for general fund support.
The city is still considering a land swap with GFPS for 10 acres of land near the soccer park that the district owns, in exchange for a portion of Kranz Park that the district has wanted for years to add parking near Great Falls High School.
That item is on the commission’s Jan. 19 agenda.