Ten acres of empty land near Malmstrom Air Force Base just south of the Seibel soccer complex is the proposed new future home of a brand new aquatics and recreation center after Great Falls received a $10 million dollar grant from the Department of Defense Community Infrastructure program.
Great Falls Park & Recreation director Steve Herrig broke the news at Tuesday night’s city commission meeting, prompting a round of applause from the attendees.
"Our grant has been approved for funding, we are working on the grant agreement,” Herrig said. “They will forward that to the city manager in the next day or two for his signature if (the commission) authorizes that tonight and we’ll move forward with our project.”
The new facility will cost $20 million with half coming from the grant, and a match coming from the Park Maintenance District assessments that voters approved in 2018 for park improvements.
“We couldn’t have proposed anything if the voters had not passed the park maintenance district a couple years ago, which gives us the funding stream to provide this match from the DOD,” said Great Falls mayor Bob Kelly. “It’s a community win-win-win all around.”
On Monday night, Herring and city manager Greg Doyon met with the Great Falls Public Schools board of trustees. GFPS agreed to a land swap for the 10-acre parcel. It’s large enough for the facility and a potential retail space that the city could lease to bring in more revenue and offset maintenance costs.
“I wish we could do most capital projects like this,” Doyon said. “I’ve never seen the opportunity to leverage this much money for a public infrastructure project that’s going to benefit so many people, and that’s what’s so exciting about it.”
The DCIP grant is a program that authorizes the Secretary of Defense to create grants to address deficiencies in community infrastructure supportive of military installations to enhance the quality of life for military members and their families.
Doyon also said the city will close the current public recreation center on 2nd Ave North and demolish the former Morony Natatorium which was closed in 2018 after falling into disrepair.
The city has one week to accept the grant, one year to break ground, and five years to complete construction. A detailed Request For Proposal is listed on the city website.