City continuing plans on aquatics center for Lions Park

City officials and the design team are meeting with Neighborhood Council 4 on Jan. 28 to update the on the planned joint indoor aquatics and recreation center.

The city is planning to locate the facility in a portion of Lions Park on 10th Avenue South and fund the project with $10 million from a federal grant and the other $10 million through debt service paid by the park maintenance district.

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During the Jan. 19 City Commission meeting, City Manager Greg Doyon said that they were starting to get some feedback from residents around Lions Park and staff wants to be able to address those concerns. Doyon said he’s meeting with the Lions Club about the plan in February.

The city had initially planned the facility for a 10-acre parcel near the city’s soccer park on 57th Street near Malmstrom Air Force Base, since the grant is through the U.S. Defense Department and intended to improve the quality of life for airmen and their communities.

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He said that the project needs to go through an environmental assessment as required by the federal National Environmental Policy Act and that process needs to get underway as soon as possible to meet the required construction start of September.

Preliminary site plan for the aquatics center at Lions Park

Doyon said the city and designers have already received some feedback from focus groups including people in local swim programs, water sports representatives and medical professionals on the design and space needs for meets, seating and more. He said they’re also working with officials from Malmstrom and the 120th Airlift Wing of the Montana National Guard for their space and storage needs for training and equipment.

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Doyon said that moving locations significantly lowered the cost of the foundation and has allowed the indoor walking track is back in the preliminary design for the facility.

He said that the team is proceeding with full geotechnical work on the Lions Park site and parking design and that there’s an effort to keep as many mature trees as possible.

The Natatorium has been closed since December 2018 due to pieces of the facade falling off the building and the cost of other needed repairs. The Nat was the second pool built on the same site and both had structural problems due to soil conditions and an underground spring at the site. City staff has said on numerous occasions that they would not recommend building another pool on the same site. Staff intends to demolish the Nat and repurpose the park.