Land Donation Spurs Forward County Gym Proposal

Recreational facility has financial backing from county, will need donors

By Molly Priddy

A proposed recreational facility for Flathead County has some momentum, with site selection and a business plan close to being finalized.

According to county Parks and Recreation Director Jed Fisher, the Gardner family has offered to donate up to 20 acres of land off Lower Valley Road south of Kalispell for the project, depending on how much space would be necessary.

Building a gym for county residents has been an idea for about 10 years, Fisher said, and it may become a reality now that they have a site in mind. It really took shape about three years ago, and now that The Lantern Corp. is working on the business plan and CTA Architects Engineers are lined up for design work, there may be a concrete vision for the project’s future.

“There’s a lot of work to be done,” county administrator Mike Pence said. “The business plan is the key element to that.”

The plan, which will be presented to the Flathead County Commission for approval, will outline the ins and outs of the project, along with a better idea of costs.

Already, Flathead County has committed $1.5 million toward the project. That money, accounted for in the county’s capital improvement plan, comes from saving $300,000 of payment-lieu-of-taxes (PILT) money every year for five years.

Fisher said his department also has $300,000 saved for the project, but it will only come to fruition if it receives backing from donors. The county won’t put in any more money, he added, so if sports teams want specific equipment or courts or rinks, they’ll have to get involved.

“The community has to step forward or [the county commission] won’t go for this,” Fisher said. “This still could crash and burn if we don’t get donations.”

Pence said previous discussions about the project put the total cost somewhere in the $3 million to $3.5 million range. Once constructed, it would be self-sustaining with a pay-to-play system.

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