Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Celebrating 50 Years of Community Sports with Sports Illustrated AND NRPA

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Celebrating 50 Years of Community Sports with Sports Illustrated AND NRPA

Article excerpt

Here are this month's Sportstowns! These towns have been chosen by NRPA and Sports Illustrated as some of the best in the U.S. at enhancing the quality of sport through parks and recreation. Keep reading to learn how these Sportstowns improve community through sport. And keep reading Parks & Recreation every month to find out about other winning Sportstowns. For a list of winners to date, see

The National Recreation and Park Association congratulates this month's featured America's Sportstown winners.

The town of Colstrip, Mont., has a history rich in coal mining, power generation and a "can-Jo attitude." The Colstrip Park and Recreation District also has a history full of change and achievements. The Park District started out as a volunteer organization in the 1960's, moved to a company-run park and recreation department in the 1970s, and evolved to a self-supporting park and recreation district in the 1990s.

When the Montana Power Company bought the mineral rights to mine coal in and around the small eastern Montana town of Colstrip, it also built two coal-fired generating units. Hecause of the new-found industry, Colstrip soon grew from 500 to 2,000 people. In the IDHOs, two larger units were built and the town grew to 3,OOO people, swelling with 5,000 additional construction workers. Even though the companies that owned the power plants ran the town, Colstrip was not a normal company town. The owners had the foresight to plan for the expansion of housing, roads, schools, law enforcement, fire protection, medical coverage and recreation. The thought behind a company-run recreation department was to keep the townspeople and the 5,000 construction workers happy by providing all types of year round recreational opportunities.

When construction was over in 1986, the company continued to provide recreational programs for its 1,000 mine and power generating employees. By this time, the power plant owners had designated and developed thousands of acres of parkland. Green belt areas were used to separate neighborhoods and provide open spaces. But, by the end of the decade, the owners of the power plants had settled into an operational mode and wanted to get out of the recreation business. So a park and recreation district was created by the townspeople, who also established a taxing system to maintain all of the park and recreation opportunities introduced to Colstrip by the power plant companies.

As of today, the Colstrip Park and Recreation District (CPRD) administers all youth and adult sports leagues. CPRD organizes the leagues, sets up schedules, trains the volunteer coaches, provides and trains the league officials and scorekeepers, maintains all of the fields and facilities, provides insurance coverage, and employs a highly trained staff to set up league rules and philosophies. Having one organization running all of the sports leagues takes a lot of pressure off of the parents in Colstrip. "The parents no longer have to set up a governing body to run the leagues, hire officials, or volunteer to run the concession stand," says Bill Neumiller, president of the Colstrip Park and Recreation District board. "They can concentrate on watching their kids have fun." Also the businesses and the residents support the sports teams with sponsorship money.

The Community Center is the heart of the Park and Recreation District, built in the 1970s by volunteers. Part of what makes the center the focus in the small town is its huge park, tennis courts, horseshoe pits, basketball courts, playground, wading pool and Olympic-sized pool. Most of the administrative activities of the Park District take place here, as well. The Colstrip Community Center is always a busy place with approximately 75,000 visits per year.

Just because the companies no longer control the Park and Recreation District, does not mean they ignore Colstrip's community efforts. These companies know all about being a good neighbor and they donate equipment to projects to benefit the community. …

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