Kidsports Complex received a late Christmas present.
The popular youth sports facility in Kalispell was awarded $1.41 million in grant funding to build new fields and infrastructure.
Gov. Steve Bullock informed the city of Kalispell on Dec. 29 that it would receive funds through a one-time youth recreational facility grant that was established by the state Legislature last session.
Columbia Falls is also receiving funding — roughly $88,000 — for parking improvements and road paving at the Sapa-Johnsrud baseball field.
“Projects such as these help local communities provide recreational opportunities and strengthen the local economy,” Bullock stated in his letter.
Dan Johns, president and founder of Kidsports Complex, said the grant funding will allow the facility to expand with seven new multi-purpose fields, additional parking and road access as well as other infrastructure on a 35-acre section of undeveloped land that is on the north end of the 126-acre public complex.
“This is a good way to celebrate Christmas and the new year,” Johns said of the grant announcement. “It will be a nice boost.”
The expansion of Kidsports Complex will allow the facility to further develop into a regional destination for tournaments, as well as a popular gathering site for local teams and events.
The development is also occuring at a time when the city is improving Four Mile Drive, the lone access point to the complex that only funnels into U.S. 93 at the moment. Crews will complete Four Mile Drive west to Stillwater Road with a flatter grade, allowing for another entry and exit point. The new bypass will run north to south adjacent to Four Mile.
Created in 1999, Kidsports features 30 fields for baseball, softball, football and soccer. The site frequently hosts large events, including the Three Blind Refs soccer tournament, which annually attracts over 2,500 players.
The Kalispell Chamber of Commerce conducted a study that found $7.6 million in economic impacts to the community related to events hosted at Kidsports.
The chamber gathered signatures of support from the community leading up to Kidsports’ grant application last month.
“We had tremendous community support,” Johns said.
Johns said the new mixed-use fields will allow for increased opportunities for soccer, football and lacrosse. There are also future plans to improve disability access throughout the complex and build an inclusive playground that offers adaptive structures for individuals with special needs.
Johns said crews could start working on the infrastructure in spring. The fields could be completed by 2017.
State Sen. Mark Blasdel, R-Kalispell, spearheaded the bill that was attached to the state budget and set aside $1.5 million for capital improvements to youth recreational facilities on school trust lands. Kalispell and Columbia Falls were the only two applicants for the grant funding, according to Kelly Lynch with the community development division of the state’s Department of Commerce.
The grant is the second significant funding boost awarded to Kalispell in recent months. In October, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced that Kalispell would receive a $10 million transportation grant to develop an industrial rail park and propel a massive economic development project in the core area.
The grant funding also follows a significant influx of funding for the final phase of the bypass. The Montana Department of Transportation awarded a $34 million contract, the largest single contract in state history, to LHC for the remaining pieces of the road project.
Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.
Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.