Arena builders

Non-profit organization spearheading the creation of a large youth center with development

Aimed to provide year-round access to sports, arts and enrichment programs, a new youth center is the centerpiece of a larger commercial and residential development planned for the north end of Kalispell.

The non-profit organization Flathead Valley Youth Center is spearheading efforts to create a publicly accessible youth center planned for Church Drive, just off US 93 south of Majestic Valley Arena. Organizers say the center would offer children and teens access to several programs.

Tawnya Bingham, chair of the non-profit organization’s board of directors, says the goal is to create a space where youth in the community can play, grow, learn and connect through sports, arts and to social interaction.

“We started talking about it for two years realizing that what the Valley really needs is a safe place for young people that helps them empower themselves,” she said. “The youth center is designed as an inviting place where every child is welcome and where every child has a place.”

The youth center is expected to be approximately 140,000 square feet in size and built with a Montana farmhouse aesthetic. The center should house a full-size turf field for lacrosse, soccer and other outdoor sports; plus, four sports courts for basketball and volleyball. Team locker rooms and stretching rooms are also included in the design.

“We see this as a community center open to everyone,” Bingham said. “We have spaces dedicated to studies and a relaxation area. We want it to be a place where young people can come and find a second family. Athletics and the arts are huge here, so that’s a priority, but we also want it to be a place where a child can find their special talent. We see it as a place to host summer workshops and after-school programs.

Bingham describes the location between Kalispell and Whitefish as an advantage, making it a hub for the Flathead Valley as a whole.

The cost of the youth center is estimated at $30 million, and fundraising efforts are looking to seek donations that could create scholarships for young people wishing to participate in programs.

Based on fundraising, the goal is to inaugurate the youth center this summer.

PART Of a larger 40 acre development called the Farm District, the Youth Center is at the center of the plan which calls for commercial development and has the potential for 102 residential units.

Bingham said the goal is to see the commercial space include businesses that would provide a benefit to young people and families using the youth center, such as a yoga or dance studio, or an ice cream or coffee shop.

“We created a layout based on the pedestrian space,” she said. “We wanted parents to be able to stop and grab a burger and feel safe that one kid could walk to the arts annex and maybe another could walk to the lacrosse field.”

Although housing appearance planning is still underway, the goal is to target affordable housing for the workforce.

“We are concerned about the lack of housing for the workforce, so it was important for us to include a section for housing to do what we can for that,” she said. declared. “We’re still working out the details, but we want to make sure housing is secured for residents.”

Last week, the Kalispell Planning Board voted to recommend several applications for the property – annexation and initial zoning for general B-2 activities with an overlay of planned commercial unit development. The project must be presented to the city council on June 6.

Bingham and her husband Kelcey are the owners of Bear Mountain Builders. As they use their expertise in the building industry to lead the project through the necessary design and planning phases, Bingham notes that the nonprofit is spearheading the project.

THE PLAN for the youth center calls for “partner spaces” that would provide available space for local nonprofits to use to work with young people. Ongoing discussions with a variety of organizations and nonprofits seek to bring more youth services to the center.

“The one thing we didn’t want to do was take it away from another nonprofit,” Bingham said. “We wanted to be as comprehensive as possible with all the other nonprofits that focus on youth.”

One such nonprofit, the Nate Chute Foundation, offers a number of programs dedicated to suicide prevention in western Montana.

“We are very happy that our community has a place that provides a safe place for young people in our valley to connect and cultivate resilience,” Kacy Howard, director of the Nate Chute Foundation.

Looking to the future, organizers are considering additions to possibly include an elevated running track, golf simulators, and an outdoor obstacle and ropes course.

In addition to Tawnya and Kelcey Bingham, Tagen Vine also sits on the association’s board of directors. An advisory committee consisting of Ryan Purdy, Kacy Howard, Andre Burba and Missy Jonson also attends.

The land for the facility has been committed as a donation.

Design fees for the building concept were donated by Cushing Terrell Architects. Swank Enterprises is leading the construction effort, with the company pledging to donate in-kind profits that would have flowed from the project.

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Managing Editor Heidi Desch can be reached at 758-4421 or