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Proposed wellness center seeks solution to funding hurdle

Aidan Higgins
City manager Grant Gager answered student questions about a proposed wellness center during his October visit to Park High government classes.

A new recreation and wellness center has been in the works for a while now in Livingston. Many community members have heard about it and been involved in the discussion, but surprisingly, most students have no idea that this new construction is being planned. The first question many ask when they hear of the Four Ranges Wellness Center is what exactly is it? That has been debated as Four Ranges Board members drafted the plans for this project.
The 2019 Community Assessment survey concluded that the most desired amenities for this new center are a walking track, an indoor pool, and a gymnasium. This was confirmed in an additional survey released in the public project update on June 20, 2023. According to Grant Gager, the city manager, the location of this new center has been narrowed down from 13 possible locations to Katie Bonnell Park. The railroad and Northwestern Energy own the land adjacent to Katie Bonnell Park, and they have offered to donate some land in order to expand the 1.8 acres that the city currently owns.
To fund the project, 25 million dollars from private donors has been lined up, but the condition of these donations is that the city must fund the operations of the new center. To operate seven days a week, it would cost the city an estimated $2.2 million per year. This is why the project has stalled out as the city attempts to secure funds for operation. Gager gave this information when he visited Park High School on October 23, and Gager is working closely with the 4 Ranges Foundation to figure out the next steps.
However, the question remains, what do Livingston students think of this new recreation center and what are the possible benefits of adding this new center to our community?
Chloe Goosey, a freshman at Park High School, has lived in Livingston her whole life. She plays volleyball and softball for Park High School. She explained that before the interview, she only knew a little bit about the project. After learning more about it, Goosey suggested that one of the potential benefits of this new recreation center is that “it could help get a lot more kids interested in sports,” and it would give them “a place to practice indoors.” She also thought that it could increase involvement with sports in Livingston’s schools and maybe even improve teams. Goosey felt that including a room for pickleball was something she personally would like the new Recreation Center to have.
Another student-athlete at Park High School, Logan Jergenson, thought that the new center could “give the community a place to get better at sports and connect with other people.” In his opinion, the most important amenity to include is an indoor tennis court. However, his second choice would be an indoor pool because “Livingston doesn’t have a good pool right now.”
MacKenna O’Dea, a junior volleyball player at Park High School, thought that one benefit of the new center would be the possibility of having a school swim team if an indoor pool is included in the construction. She explained that Livingston currently only has an outdoor pool. Additionally, she suggested that having an indoor track would be a really good resource for the track team at Park High School because sometimes weather can prevent the team from using the outdoor track. According to O’Dea, it is important that the new recreation center has adequate parking because the current Civic Center has limited parking that is difficult to get in and out of. In general, the most important thing O’Dea thought the new center should have is space that’s “available for students who need or want to use it.”
Overall, the majority of students interviewed had not heard of the Four Ranges Community Wellness Center project before. Although, after it was explained to them, each student had a unique viewpoint and opinion to contribute. They think this new center is a great idea and could have many benefits, so it will be interesting to see the next steps that are taken to put this project back on track.

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Molly Arterburn
Junior at Park High School and volleyball player.

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