As a parent and financier for a traveling band of soccer players, I am growing weary of subsidizing other communities with my limited travel dollars spent in the hotels, coffee shops, restaurants, gas stations, and sporting stores of Great Falls, Kalispell, Billings, Coeur d’Alene, Jackson Hole, Boise, Sheridan, and yes, even Butte and Pocatello. Bozeman sports team families may end up in these towns for as many as six to eight weekends each year for tournaments. I wonder when our regional neighbors will return the favor and spend their travel dollars in support of our kids and Bozeman businesses?

The answer: when the citizens of Bozeman, in a partnership with the sports field community, purchase, build, and manage a quality outdoor sports park designed to accommodate the huge local demand for fields, while attracting statewide and regional tournaments. Such tournaments have produced hundreds of thousand dollars in revenue per weekend for local businesses in other Montana communities.

With the proposed Parks and Trails Bond, Bozeman has an opportunity to capture our share of those dollars for the local economy while investing in the physical and social well-being of our youth. A Parks and Trails Bond would provide critical capital funding for a campaign that would bring a sports park to the city of Bozeman.

For soccer alone, this complex would provide quality playing fields for more than 3,000 members of youth and adult soccer leagues in the city. With an 8-12 field complex, Bozeman could be recognized as a host city and compete for the Montana High School Association State Soccer tournament and the Montana Youth Soccer Association state championships (the latter reportedly attracts an average of 3,000 fans generating $1.2 -$1.5 million in revenue).

As partners, the lacrosse and rugby community would have a home and could seek revenue-generating opportunities. The opportunity to develop private invitational tournaments would become a reality as hotels and restaurants partner with the various sports clubs and their volunteers to secure regional tournaments in the spring and fall shoulder seasons.

The purchase, development, and maintenance of a quality sports park will require a public-private partnership to succeed. The soccer, lacrosse, and rugby communities are poised for this venture and are currently in the discovery phase of developing a non-profit organization that would take on the maintenance and long-term stewardship of such a park.

This approach ensures that the costs of management and maintenance are shouldered by individual and corporate donors, user fees, and visiting teams and their families. It allows our revenue-strapped Parks and Recreation Department the ability to apply its resources to those important trails and parks whose user groups are more diffuse.

In the past, the high price of real estate within the city has proven to be an impenetrable barrier for the city or the sports clubs. That has now changed as real estate prices have dropped, allowing a sports park capital campaign to become a reality. Fortunately, families who use these facilities recognize their potential role in supporting a park with their fees, donations, and volunteer hours. With these converging forces, the time is right to harness those resources with a Parks and Trails bond whose proceeds could be used to acquire and develop a Bozeman sports park.

On July 16, the city commission will finalize the terms of a $15 million bond initiative to be placed on the November ballot. This bond will provide funding to further develop an impressive parks and trails system that produces a “quality of life” dividend very few communities can claim. A sports park connected via trails to this system and adjoining neighborhoods would not only provide much needed recreational fields, but also an engine of revenue for our community. Please attend the meeting and encourage them to support a Parks and Trails Bond.

Allen May is a six-year resident with three active, sports-crazed daughters. He represents the Blitzz Soccer club as a volunteer in support of those citizens committed to securing quality parks and trails for Bozeman.