Advantage Butte hears volleyball, swimming pitches

By Bruce Sayler

Pitches for swimming and volleyball projects topped the discussions held at the March meeting of Advantage Butte Tuesday in the Butte Plaza Inn.

The group also approved a proposal to help fund a rodeo and sounded a congratulations to the Butte Central Maroons for their undefeated high school girls’ basketball Class A state championship completed Saturday at the state tournament held in Belgrade.

The topics were several in conversation at a small, but busy meeting.

Advantage Butte Treasurer Brad Spear of the Anderson ZurMuehlen and Co. CPA firm reported that the group has $54,495 banked, of which $15,400 is committed for upcoming events. President Rody Holman of PayneWest Insurance reminded that more expenses are expected for some competitions from which requests have not yet been formally received. Among them are two state Class A high school basketball tournaments landed for the Butte Civic Center next March — the girls’ and boys’ tournaments on back-to-back weekends.  Bill Melvin, Civic Center manager, said $4,000 for each will be asked

Not yet ready to present a formal proposal, Montana Tech assistant athletic director Matt Stepan asked Advantage Butte to think about increasing its financial support of the Big Sky Challenge women’s volleyball tournament to be held in Aug. 26-27.

The reason, Stepan said, is that the tourney will be expanded. He said plans are for Butte to play host to a 14-team, two-day meet in the Civic Center with three sports courts provided by the Montana High School Association to be used. Such would make it possible to play three matches at once.

The tourney, in the past, has seen Montana Tech and Carroll College serve as co-hosts with half of the matches played on the Montana Tech campus and the other half at Carroll in Helena. It also had been a 12-team competition.

The mat-like sports courts would be the same ones used each November for the state high school volleyball tournaments held in Bozeman at the Breeden Fieldhouse.

“We’re looking at 14 teams with all of it being played in Butte, instead of sharing it with Helena,” Stepan said. “We’ll have all the Montana Frontier Conference teams and eight out-of-state teams. There will be 28 matches played in two days. The ref costs will be $5,000 and the teams will need 220 motel rooms.”

The referee fees, which Advantage Butte has covered in the past for the tourney, will be doubled at this year’s holding because of the increase in entrants and matches.

“Maybe, someday we can incorporate some high school volleyball in the future that same weekend,” Stepan said, looking ahead to possibilities.

He then gave copies of the plan to Advantage Butte officers for their consideration and said he hoped to submit a formal proposal and request later.

Stepan also talked about other Oredigger sports. He said the golf team will be vying in the conference tournament on April 16 in Phoenix. He told that football spring drills will kick off on Monday with the annual Green-and-White spring game slated for April 23. The Udder Insanity fundraiser and the annual auction are also scheduled for that day.

J.R. Richardson represented the Friends of Stodden in seeking community support, rather than financial help, from Advantage Butte for the new swimming pool project. If built, Richardson said the pool is proposed to open the week before school is out, and to close a week after school starts in the fall. Such a schedule could allow for, he said, the use of locker rooms at the pool to be used by Butte High and Butte Central girls’ softball teams, who also play their home games at Stodden Park.

He also noted that the ballot measure to be voted on regarding possible pool approval includes language for up to $350,000 a year for maintenance instead of it being a yet-to-be added cost. He said gate fees could alleviate the maintenance costs if enough collected and money not used from the maintenance fund would stay in it for future use.

Richardson said the costs will be associated with the site of the old pool, which was closed because of leaks, if it is or isn’t replaced. He said $100,000 for demolition and $150,000 in reclamation costs are likely if a new pool is not OK’d by taxpayers. The demolition and reclamation expenses would have to be taken from one of the department budgets in Silver Bow County, such as road repair, Richardson said.

He said $1 million has been pledged toward the project by private parties and taxpayers are being asked to provide $7.2 million. He said if the measure fails on the June 7 ballot, then the pledged donation will disappear as it is earmarked only for the pool project.

The tax increase would be $20 yearly on a $100,000 property, he said.

“So if it fails, we lose $1 million to the community,” he said.

Holman and Butte-Silver Bow recreation director J.P. Gallagher also both spoke in favor of the project. Richardson, Holman and Gallagher all talked about it being a potential recruitment tool for families considering a move to Butte.

“People make decisions based on family,” Richardson said. “As we look to get more people in our community, a swimming pool will help. It would be another tool in our economic development to use to pull at these families who come to look at our community. My faith in this community is never-ending.”

Holman presented a request from the Butte Vigilante Rodeo association for $2,000 to help put on a high school rodeo April 22-24 at the Butte grounds. Holman said the Advantage Butte executive committee met on the matter and recommended approval by the body. It passed unanimously after a motion by Melvin seconded by Jeff Gorman of McDonald’s for approval.

Among items mentioned concerning the Butte Family YMCA, were that the Lighten Your Load program that just finished will result in more than a ton of weight lost by participants, said Advantage Butte Treasurer Dorea Wilmoth of the Butte Comfort Inn. Wilmoth was forwarding information she received from the Y for the meeting. Several kids’ programs are also in progress or beginning at the facility. More information can be gained by contacting or visiting the Y.

Melvin said 185 surveys were filled out by tournament-goers at the Civic Center the past month regarding how they spend their money while in town. The paperwork has been turned into the University of Montana for processing and results will be told later, he said.

The Civic Center played host to the Western A SuperDivisional and the State Class B tournaments. Both were combined boys’ and girls’ basketball championship events.  “The gate for the B was twice that of the Western A,” he said. “So, I think they went quite well — were very well-received by the community.”

Melvin said the Handing Down The Heritage community St. Patrick’s Day celebration will be held in the Civic Center on Thursday and the Copper City Queens roller derby squad will have a match Saturday in the facility.

Continuing to hunt major sports events for Butte, Melvin said bids for MHSA state tournaments and meets will be held in April and the Civic Center is available for whatever can be brought to town.

Past President Ron Davis of Butte Broadcasting and commented that he’d been told a lot of prom dresses were sold in Butte while the state Class B tourney was being held.

Wilmoth added that how well the motels do with the tournaments “kind of depends on who wins and who loses.”

Stepan also represented the Butte Wrestling Club and reported that just less than 750 wrestlers representing five states competed in the Cyclops Invitational tournament held last month in the Civic Center. He said the entries were a little fewer than last year, but “on par” with the average over the last five years. Holman added that an accompanying East Middle School invitational junior high tourney drew more than 300 entrants, some of whom stayed an extra day to wrestle in the Cyclops.

He also said 15 of 27 Butte wrestlers who competed in the state folkstyle tournament placed, including championships won by Jeff Queer, Ethan Sweet and Mavrek McEwen. The tourney was held in Great Falls. Queer also won a spot on the Montana National Team that will compete later this year. Stepan said more than 1,200 wrestlers were entered in the state meet.

The Butte club will be the host of its annual Smith/McCarthy Greco-Roman and freestyle tournament April 15-16 in the Civic Center, Stepan said. The club is also putting on the city grade school tournament March 30 in the Ross J. Richardson Memorial Gym at Butte High School. At no cost to participants, the club holds practices for those entered in the school tournament over a three-week span before holding the tourney.

Signups are still being accepted by the Butte club for membership, Stepan said, adding that the season continues through April and scholarship is still available for those needing help with fees.

A message from Gina Evans of the Butte 100 committee said the event is being renamed for the late Dr. Peter Sorini, who died last month. The new name of the world-class mountain bike event will be the Butte/Sorini Don’t Stop Believing 100 and is set for the middle of summer. More race information can be found on the website, Advantage Butte officials said.

Gallagher talked about the inaugural Butte SnowFlinga winter festival held at the end of January.  “We had better participation than we expected,” he said. “We had more than 1,000 people at the SnowFlinga opener (held at the U.S. High Altitude Sports Center).”

A lot of interest, he said, was shown in the luge event and skating held at the site of the Original Mineyard, the rail jam skiing at the Mountain Con and the trail runs that were held in the snow. Most of the events were held in the Uptown or above.

“I think it was really successful,” Gallagher said. “And, we’re getting a lot of suggestions coming in for how to make it better.”

He said the recently held Mulletfest softball tourney and celebration held at Stodden Park also went well with more than 60 Montana Tech teams entered. He said the winter pickleball experiment at the Civic Center was successful enough to warrant a spring league. He said adult softball signups will be held soon.

He also gave an update on the baseball field being put in at Copper Mountain Youth Sports Park to be used by the Butte American Legion baseball program. He said lighting, bleachers and other items are ready to be installed at the facility. Locker rooms, rest rooms and a concession stand will be built later this summer, he said. The facility should be complete by the end of the summer, he said, but that play will not be allowed on the field until next year because the grass will not be ready until then.

Gallagher then said the county is advertising to hire a golf pro for the Highland View municipal course this season. He said he has also applied for a liquor license for Highland View so that beer and wine can be available at the golf course.

The next Advantage Butte meeting is scheduled for April 19.

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