Snow delays, volleyball head Advantage Butte reports

By Bruce Sayler

Spring’s late winter-like weather in Butte has slowed the finishing of the Stodden Park project, but a city official said the site should still be amply capable for sports needs next month.

Butte-Silver Bow Parks and Recreation Director J.P. Gallagher told the March/April meeting of Advantage Butte Tuesday that the renovation of the park is about a month behind schedule because of the heavy snowfall taken in recent weeks, and the continued snowy and cooler weather.

The snow cover, however, is all that is keeping players off the field at the park’s softball fields, Gallagher said while pronouncing the surfaces ready to go. The state Class AA high school softball tournament is scheduled for Stodden Park May 23-25.

The state of the park was one of the topics discussed in the sparsely attended Advantage Butte meeting held at The Metals Sports Bar & Grill. No March meeting was held due to scheduling conflicts, so Tuesday’s gathering melded business from both months.

“The fields are ready, the challenge is clearing them,” said Gallagher, who told the members that a citizen’s incorrect attempts at ridding a ballfield of snow in another location likely caused thousands of dollars worth of damage. “Jim Street had a snowblower attachment on his machine that worked well for us (at Stodden Park). Don’t use snowplows for it.”

Another delayed improvement will be in the stringing of improved netting at the fields, Gallagher said. He said the same netting above the viewing areas will be in place to try to prevent fouled balls from dropping onto the spectators. Also, screening borrowed from the Butte Civic Center will be temporarily installed to shield the playground area from stray balls, he said. An improved netting system will be hung later in the year, he said.

Gallagher said the new netting will constitute a $50,000 investment.

He said the entrance ways, including the new driveway off of Rowe Road, will be open for tournament time, as well as the playground and parking lots. The entrance and the playground are seeing use now.

“It’s a huge success,” he said of the park, which also includes the new Ridge Waters pool and waterpark, which is to open for the season at a date yet to be finalized.

Gallagher said he received word that about 200 children were trying out the new playground equipment last weekend.

“Hopefully, the weather will break pretty soon,” he said. “This has been a horrible start to the parks season. The golf course opened April 3 last year. It’s probably going to be in May this year.”

The Highland View Golf Course is located at Stodden Park.

Gallagher told the group  that parks superintendent Kelly Dennehy has retired and has been succeeded by Pete Schonsberg, who has worked in the department for several years. Gallagher also said new grooming equipment has been bought to help in field maintenance.

Volleyball seems to be going over the net for Butte sports interests, as well. The Advantage Butte Volleyball Classic last month was termed a first-year success and the Butte Civic Center has won a season-opening tournament for high school volleyball this fall, it was reported.

The Advantage Butte Volleyball Classic was for girls’ club teams in age-group (18-and-under, 16-and-under, 14-and-under and 12-and-under) competitions. Play was held on the three city-owned sports courts put down on the Civic Center floor, the court located in the Civic Center annex, as well as at West Elementary School and the Montana Tech

HPER Complex. Original plans called for Civic Center use only, but the overwhelming entry interest caused the spillover onto other available courts, Bill Melvin, director of the Civic Center said. It attracted 44 teams from all over Montana and was organized by Butte High head volleyball coach Jeni Hope.

The two-day tourney drew about 700 spectators and has been booked for a second holding next March, Melvin said.

“For a first-time event, we have to consider it a rousing success,” Melvin said. “The Civic Center will be requesting in the (BSB) budget for more volleyball equipment.”

Montana Tech will be a host again of the Big Sky Volleyball Challenge college women’s tournament in the Civic Center in late August. A new tournament will follow the next weekend. Melvin said the Class A Western Division has voted to hold a high school tip-off tournament for volleyball this fall and picked the Civic Center as the venue.

Ray Ueland, of The Metals Sports Bar & Grill, said he heard diners in his business lauding the Civic Center as a volleyball facility during the weekend of the club tourney.

The president of Advantage Butte, Rody Holman, also representing PayneWest Insurance, noted that Montana High School Association has awarded the Butte Copper King Inn a return engagement for the organization’s winter meetings — in 2021. The 2019 meetings were held in January in the Butte convention center, the first such holding is several years.

“Our hats off to this group,” Holman said. “The football party (hosted by Advantage Butte at the meetings) was a great event. It’s nice to get that appreciation.”

Melvin noted the meetings are traditionally  scheduled as a rotation among Montana’s convention site communities.

“So, this is a nice coup for Butte,” Melvin commented.

The MHSA has awarded the state Class AA softball tournament to Butte for this year, as well as the 2020 state Class B basketball tournament, state Class A softball tournament and state Class A golf tournament, and the 2021 state Class A basketball tournament.

Beginning next year, every enrollment classification will hold a combined tournament to crown its separate boys’ and girls’ basketball state champions. The format means that four tournaments will be held on the same weekend, and only five facilities in the state qualify as venues for such undertakings.

Next year, for example, the Class AA tourney will be in Bozeman, the A in Billings, the B in Butte and the C in Missoula. Great Falls will have the state AA in 2021.

“The State A is always a good tourney for us,” Melvin commented about the Civic Center recently being awarded the 2021 state A hoops tournament.

Holman showed the plaque the MHSA presented Advantage Butte at the winter meetings. It was a Service Citation Award “in recognition of a significant contribution to the MHSA.”

“It shows that the MHSA and Advantage Butte have an outstanding working relationship,” Holman said.

Longtime Butte High activities staff member Pat Powers also received a service award at the meeting.

The group decided to start planning for hospitality areas to serve event personnel at the state AA softball tournament and Western A Divisional track meet next month.

Melvin reminded that a pro combat sports card is to be held in the Civic Center Saturday night with Butte resident Ariel Beck headlining the card.

Holman offered congratulations on behalf of Advantage Butte to group member Stephanie Sorini of the Butte-Silver Bow Chamber of Commerce for being named the State Tourism Volunteer of the Year at the Governor’s State Tourism Convention being held this week. It particularly honored her for her executive roles in the Butte 100 mountain bike spectacular.

Advantage Butte tabled discussion pertaining to the Hit The Pit club softball tournament to be held in June. Representatives of the tournament were unable to attend the meeting.

The Advantage Butte treasurer, Brad Spear, of the Anderson Zurmuehlen Co. firm, reported $26,657 in the checking account with $20,400 in commitments.

The next Advantage Butte meeting is to be scheduled for May 21, probably at the Butte Plaza Inn.