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Hockey community backs new rec center proposal in Billings

Centennial Ice Arena
Posted at 8:16 PM, Jan 16, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-17 08:18:51-05

BILLINGS — A proposal to bring a huge $112 million multi-generational recreational facility to Billings' South Side is back in front of City Council Tuesday, as Billings Parks and Rec presents its final plan for the project.

With the plan front and center of council members' attention, ice sports enthusiasts say they will hang up their skates and head to the chambers—voicing their support of the plan, which they say has the potential to re-define the way sports are played in Billings.

“We have ice but we need more of it. Our programming is just growing rapidly, not just the number in those programs, but the number of programs that we have,” says Megan Davis, director of Centennial Ice Arena

Right now, Centennial Ice Arena is the only indoor sheet of ice for adult and youth hockey programs, figure skating, curling, and other community programs.

On the table in front of city council members Tuesday is a plan that includes a new indoor ice rink—giving Billings a much-needed second sheet of ice.

“Allowing our current programming to expand to what it could, right now there really is kind of a cap on that because of the availability that we have here, which one sheet. So it really is about allowing this to grow to what it should be for the size of the community that we have here.”

In the works for years is a multi-generational recreational facility that expands indoor and outdoor recreation opportunities to be built on a 10-acre lot owned by the city next to Amend Park.

Renderings show plans for swimming pools, an indoor track, several gymnasiums, fitness rooms, concessions, childcare areas, and more.

In an agenda for Tuesday's meeting, Billings Parks and Rec lays out the homework it's done of commissioning studies, surveying community members on their interests and priorities, and breaking down costs.

The current project cost is around $112.6 million with an estimated 78% cost recovery.

Billings city managers say the city already has $35 million of tax-increment financing dollars to devote to the project but a bond for more funding would be put in front of taxpayers. How much that includes and the breakdown of how it is paid, is not yet available.

Other sources of funding would come from private donations, sponsorships, and community partnerships.

Already a fan of the plan is 9-year-old hockey player, Aden Goubeaux.

“I like hockey because it’s fun, it’s good exercise and a lot of people love it," Goubeaux said.

Aaron Noble, who plays in Billings advanced hockey league, says he supports the project not only for expanded ice, but as a parent.

“Honestly I really just think it’s giving kids activities and keeping them out of trouble, I think that’s the biggest thing," Noble said. "Two sheets of ice, swimming facility, whatever it turns out to be, it keeps kids busy, I really think that sports are so important."