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'Needs to be redone': Residents yearn for improvements at Billings South Side pool

Posted at 6:19 PM, Mar 03, 2024

BILLINGS — Billings South Park is home to the oldest active pool in the state of Montana and its age has been showing for the past several years. After a $143 million dollar parks bond failed to pass last fall, it's a heartbreaking problem for residents on the South Side as the pool is invaluable to the community.

“We spend a lot of time at South Park pool,” said South Side resident, Veronica Bourne on Thursday.

Bourne, her husband, and their four boys live just four blocks away from South Park pool.

“We don’t go into the bathrooms or the changing rooms. If the kids have to potty, we go home,” Bourne said.

It's with good reason. From rotting beams to duct tape covered slides, it's a sad sight to see.


“There’s a little bit of rotting wood over here that concerns me,” said Mike Pigg, Billings Parks and Rec Executive Director as he gave MTN a tour of the facility last week.

The state of the 110 year old pool has been on Pigg's radar for a while now, especially since the South Side is a predominantly low income community.

"It's just sad that this is the environment we give them, but it's better than nothing. Let's go that way," Pigg said.

He said there's not much else the parks department can do to improve its current state.

“All of the makeup and lipstick we can put on this one has been put on over the years,” added Pigg.

Despite that, the pool has been a fixture of the community since it opened.

“As soon as that sun starts shining, and the pool opens, we all would head to the pools of course,” said Billings South Side native, Lisa Vance.

Vance remembers when the pool was twice as big than what it is now.


“The pool is so much smaller than it was when I went there. And they got rid of the diving board,” Vance said.

Vance is also the South Side Task Force chair, and one of many who's determined to fix the pool.

“Speaking with the mayor and speaking with our representatives for our end of town, they’ve been trying to find the money to possibly get us a new pool,” said Vance.

It's a daunting task, especially since Billings voters rejected the $143 million dollar parks bond last fall. It means the city is back to the drawing board.

“I think that’s part of why this aquatic study that we have going is so important ‘cuz it’ll help guide us into the future. It will tell us, where should South Park go, what should this pool facility look like," Pigg said.

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“We want to encourage that plan as best as possible, but acknowledging that the bond failed because it was such a high price tag,” said Kaleb Perdew, executive director of South Side based nonprofit, Community Leadership and Development Inc.

Perdew said CLDI is hoping to contribute a solution to the problem.

“We’re still trying to see what partnerships look like, as we’ve partnered with city council in the past. We’ve partnered with the mayor, we’ve partnered with the city administrator, and we’ve done great things and I’d like to see it continue,” Perdew said.

In spite of the hurdles, all of them agree it's a project that's long overdue.

“I really don’t believe that there’s another thing we could do to make this a happy, fun, inviting place. It just needs to be redone,” Pigg said.