CROW AGENCY — A new addition to Little Big Horn College in Crow Agency will give students and the community a chance to boost their health.
Inside, a 1,900-seat gymnasium with an NBA/NCAA-sized basketball court will also add to the enjoyment of games for players and fans.
On Friday, workers were putting finishing touches on the 35,000-square-foot Health & Wellness Center, which sits across the street from the two-year college’s main campus. Activities all this week will give people a chance to get acquainted with the center.
Construction of the $10 million project began Sept. 1, 2010. Fisher Construction of Billings was the general contractor.
BNIM Architects of Kansas City, Mo., designed the building. Springer Group Architects of Bozeman, the project architects, helped make the new center environmentally friendly.
The materials used to construct the building and the systems put in place to conserve water and energy will make the center a candidate for LEED certification, an internationally recognized green building certification system.
Once it’s certified, the Health & Wellness building will be the largest LEED-certified project on an Indian reservation in Montana, said David Small, dean of administration for the two-year school.
There was a time when the college consisted of one building, the former tribal headquarters that housed the school.
“As the college progressed, the learning center was added, and the cultural center,” Small said.
In 2006, a new administration/library building was constructed, the cafeteria was upgraded and a day care was added, he said. In his office, Small pointed to a master plan that includes future construction, including the next building college officials hope to build, a school of technology.
Other future plans include hiking and jogging trails, an athletic complex for other sports, and student dorms. The eventually goal for the school — that is open to all students, tribal and otherwise — would be to turn the college into a four-year university.
Enrollment this fall is down a little, at 380 students from the usual 400, Small said. But that might change.
“It seems like every time we put up a new building, we get increased enrollment,” he said.
The Health & Wellness building was done using an integrated project delivery process, Small said.
“That allows you to bring in everyone up front and get them all on board, all the subcontractors, the general contractor, the owner, the architect,” he said. “The heavy-duty planning goes in and everybody’s on the same page to start with.”
During a tour of the new building, Small pointed out nice touches. One was the colorful Crow patterns inside and outside the building designed by Melodee Reed, a Crow beadwork artist, who is also a receptionist at the college.
Jim Riggio of Apsaalooke Design Woodworking in Billings created cabinetry with Crow patterns and also added patterns to the wooden posts outside the front door.
The glassed-in lobby inside the entrance contains a concessions stand and a ticket and information area. The building faces east, a Crow tradition, Small said, because that is the direction the sun rises from.
Rooms around the periphery include lockers, aerobics space, a cardio room filled with elliptical machines, treadmills and other workout machines, and a weight-training room, lockers and even a sauna. The gym itself has an NBA/NCAA-regulation-sized court that can also be divided by a curtain into two courts for high school games.
A state-of-the-art sound system can be used on one court or two courts, Small said. And the gym also includes lockers for the players and visitors and coaches’ offices.
As more money becomes available, Small said, an aquatic center will be build out the south end of the center.
A Health & Wellness Center is especially important in a town where some illnesses could be minimized or eliminated with physical exercise, Small said.
“When President Yarlott wrote the grant for the building, we emphasized the diseases that are a priority on our reservation: heart disease, diabetes and obesity,” he said.
The college was able to leverage a $2.5 million grant into $10 million for the project, working with Travois New Markets to use new market tax credits financing for the economic development project.
The construction project employed between 25 and 40 tradesmen at a time, many of them members of the tribe. The center will employ six full-time people.
Small, who helped guide the work on the new building, said he’s proud of what has been built for the benefit of students and for members of the Crow Tribe.
“If I’ve done anything in my life, this is it, I can say I helped with this” he said. “I know when I retire and I bring my grandkids here, I’m gonna brag about this.”