Calling it a door to the community, the Missoula City Council on Monday made official its adoption of a conceptual plan for a $44 million indoor recreation center proposed for McCormick Park.

With a design in hand, backers of the project can now begin their search for funding and hope philanthropy will cover the cost. Accepting the plan doesn't commit the city to any funding at this point in time, according to city staff.

“We recognize that today's economy is not the time to ask for funds,” said Donna Gaukler, director of Parks and Recreation. “We're not asking for funds, were not asking for construction or operational funds. But there's opportunity for a vision and there's opportunity for philanthropy. This is a time to build coalitions.”

As proposed, the Currents Center for Recreation and Creativity would add around 60,000 square feet to the aquatics center in McCormick Park. It would cater to an audience of all ages with multiple interests, from classes to basketball to dance.

The array of options has won it a growing number of supporters.

“I'm very familiar with how painfully challenging it was as a local dance professional with a company looking for a well-equipped space to perform, and how difficult it was to find that in Missoula,” said Amy Ragsdale. “I've seen a steady talent drain from this town of performing artists. One piece of the puzzle of how we keep artists here is to provide them a well-equipped, affordable space.”


If realized, the facility would also serve as a dedicated year-round center hosting recreation and cultural activities. That includes a multi-purpose gym or auditorium, a ballroom for social dance and performances, along with classrooms and childcare facilities.

Despite Missoula’s size, advocates contend, it lacks a dedicated indoor public facility that caters to physical activity and recreation year-round as its sole purpose.

The project was included in the McCormick site plan back in 2003.

“This plan is unique in two ways. One, the community outreach well exceeds that which has occurred in the past,” said Mike Sweet with Friends of the Currents Center for Recreation and Creativity. “Secondly, while this design captures all the components of the previous efforts, it more completely represents the diversity and interests of the community and reflects how our community is growing.”

While the project has supporters in its vision, funding the facility will mark the next step. The Missoula Public Library relied upon private donations for a portion of its cost but still netted the majority of its funding from a general obligation bond.

Monday's vote didn't focus on funding or operational costs but rather, it was intended to provide backers a vision to carry to potential donors.

“We're luck to live in a community where people are willing to do this,” said council member Amber Sherrill. “I've done lots of fundraising in my life and you don't go to get grants or go to philanthropic organizations with an idea unless you have a plan to back it up. That's how you get funding.”

The plan passed City Council on a 10-2 vote, with John Contos and Sandra Vasecka in opposition.

“With Marshall Mountain coming up – and we just had the public library – we're putting so much burden on the property tax of homeowners,” Vasecka said. “We're spending too much money. I don't think financially we're ready for this.”