Havre Daily News
ROCKY BOY'S INDIAN RESERVATION - Mike Sangrey said he's so excited about the new wellness center on Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation that it's the first thing he thinks about when he wakes up in the morning.
“I'm like a kid in a candy store. I don't really want to share my candy,” Sangrey, the center's director, joked while gazing at the shiny new basketball court.
The center is holding an open house next Friday. It will be open for business at 6 a.m. on March 6.
The facility includes an Olympic-sized pool, hot tub, walking track, saunas, steam rooms and a gym, which includes free weights, weight machines and treadmills.
“The first time I came in, I was impressed. My jaw dropped. I was like, ‘Are we in Rocky Boy?'” the center's business manager, Ramona Gardipee-Duran, said Thursday. “This is a big thing for Rocky Boy. This is awesome. I'm proud to say I'm from Rocky Boy.”
Sangrey said the new fitness center will open to everyone 14 years old and up, with special hours designated for younger people.
“Primarily this is for adults to let go of stress and not worry about kids running around,” Sangrey said. “It's not going to be a Holiday Inn setting. It will be a fitness club setting.”
The pool schedule will include lap swimming and water aerobics classes.
The center's hours will be 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays and 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekends.
Sangrey said the center's employees are still ironing out fees and billing.
“It won't be free but it won't cost an arm and a leg,” he said. “The plan is to have the place pay for itself to some extent.”
Sangrey said the center now has enough money to function for a year.
The center came with a price tag of $2.9 million, said Tim Rosette, chief of the Environmental Health Office of the Rocky Boy Health Board.
The Chippewa Cree Tribe provided $1.8 million, $900,000 came from a Indian Community Development Block Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and $200,000 was covered by a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant, he said.
Sangrey said plans include a gift store selling sportswear embroidered with the Chippewa Cree seal and a snack bar serving healthy treats.
The center will have two maintence workers, two life guards, a business manager, a desk clerk and a community health educator.
“You know that old saying, ‘You're only as good as who you are surrounded by,' and I am surrounded by some good people,” Sangrey said.
He said he is extremely proud of the center.
“There are some that are hard to impress and even they were tripping all over themselves. They were licking their chops. Everybody has been impressed,” Sangrey said.
He said the center is a culmination of the work of generations of tribal members.
“This has been a vision for years, back to our chairman's grandfather, going back in history. This is part of what they dreamed about. All the good ones before me and after me,” Sangrey said.
He said the people who made the center possible will be honored at a feed at the old Stone Child College at noon next Friday.
“I think the tribe can be pretty proud of this,” said Gordon Burns, owner of Superior Shotcrete Services in Missoula, which was subcontracted to work on the pool and hot tub by Swank Enterprises of Valier.
The second part of the project, a $10 million health clinic next door to the center, should be open the end of December, Rosette said.
Tours of the wellness center will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. next Friday.