SHERIDAN — At the Whitney Benefits education summit held last week, Sheridan County School District 2 Board Chairman Richard Bridger said the district is investigating the possibility of constructing a large indoor multipurpose facility.
“I probably don’t need to tell you this but in Wyoming the winters can be long and cold,” Bridger told the assembled group of education-related administrators and state and local elected representatives. “So approximately half the year, the need for indoor activity space becomes essential. As an example, we currently have three boys basketball teams, three teams of girls basketball and indoor track all needing spaces to practice and only two gym facilities for all these teams. As a result, practices go later in the evening and track kids usually practice in the halls.”
“That being said, we are now looking at the creation of a large, multi-use facility so we can facilitate basketball, soccer, football, baseball, track and any other community event that needs a space,” he continued.
“We would also like to incorporate a natatorium into the design to house a proper 50-meter pool for both competition and recreation.”
SCSD 2 Superintendent Craig Dougherty said in interviews with The Sheridan Press with that there are several reasons the district feels a large multipurpose facility is needed.
“We definitely have some immediate needs, our locker rooms are shot,” he said. “They are just inadequate for the number of kids we have participating in extracurricular activities. Kids who are in indoor track, don’t have an indoor track facility so they run up and down the hallways. Same with the soccer kids. Track kids are on one floor and soccer kids are on another floor.”
As part of the district’s plans for such a facility, it hired Ballard, King and Associates, a Colorado consulting firm specializing in recreational facility planning, to create a market and operational analysis of the proposed facility. That study was completed in spring 2013.
According to a draft copy of the analysis, the 151,000-square-foot building, to be located adjacent to Sheridan High School, would potentially include a leisure pool, therapy pool, 50-meter pool, weight and cardio training space, training room, meeting room, men’s and women’s locker rooms and an indoor 200-meter track with multi-purpose court space in the center of the track.
Dougherty said that discussions about the facility have been taking place for two years and lead by a steering committee comprised of school board members, school administration and various organizations in the community such as the YMCA and the SCSD 2 Recreation District. He said the purpose of the meetings has been to seek partnerships within the community to develop and create the building.
“Over the last two years what we have been doing is long-term planning by involving lots of community members,” he said. “We’ve basically asked them to help us in long-term planning. Basically the plan behind this was, is there something we can do that will create partnerships and benefit the whole community.”
“We began to reach out and talk to people and for lack of a better term, try to get everybody’s wish list,” added Don Julian, Sheridan High School activities director. “What does the Y need, what does the rec. district need, what does the school district need, what does the community need? We really tried to reach out.”
While the facility would primarily be used for student athletic activities, events and tournaments, the building would be available to the public for recreational use at times when student activities or practices are not taking place. In addition, SCSD 2 Facilities Director Julie Carroll said that the building could be used for larger community events such as conventions, which could attract state and regional visitors to Sheridan.
Carroll and Dougherty said that several other communities, such as Gillette, Cody and Riverton currently have similar community recreation buildings that are operated through community partnerships with the local school district.
For example, the Campbell County Recreation Center opened in 2010 and according to its website, includes three basketball courts, four racquetball courts, elevated walking track, three exercise rooms, two birthday party rooms, five indoor tennis courts, a climbing wall and other amenities within the 190,000-square-foot building.
The district also worked with TSP of Sheridan, an architecture, engineering and construction firm, on rough cost estimates for the building.
Dougherty and Carroll emphasized that the price was for the “pie in the sky” version of the project in which every community group involved got what they wanted included in the project.
The estimate reached by TSP, according to Dougherty as a pro bono project, was approximately $45 million.