The Helena Regional Sports Association, with professional guidance from Ballard-King and Highland Economics, has completed our assessment of the feasibility of a multi-sport complex in Helena. The completed document offers guidance about the optimal size of the facility, potential locations, and amenities Helena residents most value.
Preferred Option Includes an Indoor Field
Helena residents told us that they overwhelmingly support the development of a large indoor space for soccer, lacrosse and other field sports. The passage of the school bond in spring 2017, which will bring three new full-size gymnasiums to the Helena area before 2020, has allowed HRSA to decrease the number of gyms in our vision from four to two so that an indoor field can be included in our preferred option. The plan diagram below shows one possible configuration of the spaces, which will also include an elevated walk/jog track (not shown). Click here for a larger image of the plan diagram.
Preferred Location Leverages Potential Partnerships
HRSA is currently exploring the possibility of redeveloping the YMCA site at Centennial Park, in partnership with the YMCA and the City of Helena. The City, as property owner, has expressed it’s willingness to allow the proposed expansion under the terms of the current YMCA lease. There are New Market Tax Credit incentives which could provide up to 20% of the total project cost, a reality that makes this a desirable site purely from a financial standpoint.
The site is also experiencing high concentrations of methane during the warmest days of the summer, due to an expensive-to-operate methane mitigation system installed decades ago. New, inexpensive methane mitigation systems have proven effective on the west side of Centennial Park, near the new Carroll College dorms, so replacing the old system could provide cost savings to City of Helena taxpayers while improving human health and safety.
The central location, roughly halfway between Helena’s high schools and middle schools, is appealing from an operations standpoint, as it allows for the expansion of partnerships that already exist between the YMCA and the public schools to provide after-school programs. It is relatively easy to provide transportation for students from area schools to a facility at Centennial Park compared to many of the other locations that HRSA evaluated.
Time is of the Essence
In both in-person interviews and online survey responses Helena-area residents, including those who live in north Jefferson County, overwhelmingly favored a facility that provides for community needs over a facility dedicated to large tournaments & events. Nearly all respondents to in-person and online surveys agreed that providing space for residents to practice and play regular games is the priority. This preference influenced HRSA’s decision to pursue a smaller, less-expensive facility at the Centennial Park location as our first choice. In choosing to pursue a smaller, less-expensive facility, HRSA is recognizing that time is of the essence for many sports enthusiasts who currently cannot find adequate spaces in Helena at all during Montana’s long winter months.
Future Opportunities Exist
During the demographic portion of the feasibility study, Ballard-King identified the fact that the Helena area is growing primarily to the south and east, and pointed to the area near the intersection of I-15 and Highway 12 as a prime location for a sports facility because of that trend. HRSA evaluated many sites in this area, and concluded that there remains a high potential for a sports facility to be developed here if a generous landowner with 10 – 12 acres of property appears on the scene in the future. Because the proposed HRSA facility will satisfy Helena’s demand for aquatic spaces, but will not fully satisfy the demand for tournament- and events-hosting spaces, there remains significant potential for a second facility that could enjoy lower operating costs by focusing on non-aquatic spaces such as gymnasiums, indoor fields, and a competition track.