Missoula Parks and Recreation is inviting residents to be part of a working group to develop a master plan for a new community center in McCormick Park.

Parks and Recreation Director Donna Gaukler told KGVO News that the idea for a full community center has been in the planning phases for many years, but now a community working group is being formed.

“We've been working with numerous groups of citizens, particularly representing dance of every type you can imagine as well as sports groups,” said Gaukler. ‘There is just immense desire and need for reliable public spaces to be physically active every day of the week, even during school hours, and that's for every age.”

Gaukler said a full sized community center has never been more needed than now.

“Missoula needs a community center,” she said. “McCormick Park is an ideal location for the first one that Missoula would have, in fact, many cities our size already have three. We have determined over the last year that with everything that's gone on economically with the pandemic, from a socio-economic and race perspective that a community center has the ability to provide an aging population, a changing population and a diverse population a place to gather and meet like they do in parks, in farmer's markets and festivals year round.”

Gaukler referenced just two of the many activities that would be encouraged and enjoyed at a centrally located community center.

“We just think it'd be great for the cultures,” she said “You know, every culture dances; every age dances, and we are excited about that. We've also got more demand for pickleball. And in all of the court sports, we currently turn interested folks away from many of our programs for lack of space. So, the demand is much greater than the supply or the capacity to deliver that demand.”

Gaukler did not delineate any overall cost estimates of such a center, but described the proposed layout.

“We are limited to an 80,000 square foot total footprint,” she said. “We do want to honor the riverfront and we do expect to have outdoor and indoor spaces. Much of the cost is really going to be related to the vision that the community develops, and then, you know the materials that will be chosen, so that's all pretty preliminary.”

In a previous interview, Gaukler said the cost of the new center could be over $15 to 17 million, although no actual numbers have been released.

Missoula residents are encouraged to apply for the working group or learn more about the project at www.engagemissoula.com; the working group application deadline is March 29.

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