City breaks ground on indoor aquatics, recreation center
The city, with Malmstrom Air Force Base and Montana Air National Guard, held a groundbreaking ceremony ceremony on Sept. 15 at Lions Park.
The U.S. Department of Defense awarded the city a $10 million grant in 2020 for the new Aim High Big Sky Aquatic Center to be constructed in Lions Park.
“We see a lot of great things in the future for this community with this facility,” said Steve Herrig, city Park and Recreation director,
The city is matching the grant with $10 million that will be funded through the park maintenance district by bonding against the district and using some of those funds to pay the debt service.
Herrig said that the new facility will allow Park and Rec to expand their programming and services for the community.
The facility will be open to the public and there will be user fees for civilians and military members alike. The facility will also allow the Malmstrom and the Guard to conduct water related training that they have previously had a hard time coordinating in the community and had to travel out of town.
Tech. Sgt. Michael Bilodeau, a training specialist with the 582nd Det 4 SERE at Malmstrom, said that the new facility will allow the military to tailor its training to specific aircraft, missions and locations. He said that his team met with city officials and the design team to help ensure the facility will also meet their training needs for simulated water landings, crashes and surviving in water for extended periods of time.
Bilodeau said they were “beyond overjoyed” when the city contacted them to talk about training needs for the facility.
It will allow them a “robust training program for “training that may someday save their life,” he said.
Col. Anita Feugate-Opperman, commander of the 341st Missile Wing, said that “what started out as a hope” was becoming a reality.
Mayor Bob Kelly said that the project had been identified in the 2016 park master plan and had been an idea pushed by Joe Petrella, the former park and rec director.
He thanked staff, the design team and others who’d been involved “for a dream come true.”
In August, the City Commission awarded a contract for water main relocation at the site to start the project.
The city opened the construction bid for the project at the end of August and bids are due Oct. 6.
That contract will be awarded this fall/winter and construction will start in the spring.
The grant requires groundbreaking by the end of September and completion within five years.
Here’s more background on the project: