Although the excavating equipment sat quiet amid mounds of dirt and carved walls, Joe Rice saw the weight room, turf and track beginning to take shape in late summer on the plot of land at the South Park Service Center south of town.
An all-encompassing sports complex for athletes around Jackson Hole is the vision of Rice and his partner, Ted Staryk. The project initially won approval from county commissioners in December 2018 after having been conceived in 2014.
Rice said the approval process for the multimillion-dollar complex came to fruition through the county’s help with the “reduction of building fees and boundary adjustments.”
“It was just a long process of getting everything approved,” he said.
The facility will be anchored by a 20,000-square-foot indoor field. It will also house a weight room, a roughly 200-foot speed track and staff offices.
A grand opening is tentatively planned for the fall of 2020.
Among those who have jumped on the project are Tyler Davis’ Jackson Hole MMA and Fitness (previously Tough as Nails MMA), and physical therapist Hayden Hilke, who plans to open an ancillary office to her Peak Physical Therapy operation based in Wilson.
While opening an office in the complex will naturally benefit athletes using the facility, Hilke stressed the new branch will not be solely focused on athlete rehabilitation.
“I’ve known Joe for years; he wanted to put people he’s known a long time in there,” Hilke said. “My whole thing was, from a rehab perspective, there needs to be more places people can go, whether they’re injured or elderly, where they can get exercise and have options when they’re healing. And Joe is trying to provide that.”
Davis, who is Rice’s son-in-law, said he’s making the change from his gym’s current address in town to the forthcoming space mostly because of the access to a wide range of facilities the sports center will provide.
The facility’s location, more than 3 miles south of town past High School Road, certainly will miss the luxury of being close to the hustle and bustle of town, but he hopes the improvement in space will prove to be beneficial.
“The bigger and better space is a little bit further away, but it is a bigger and better space,” Davis said. “We hope that makes up for it.”
Quite like Hilke’s office doesn’t expect to be focused purely on athletes, the rebranded Jackson Hole MMA and Fitness doesn’t necessarily want the reputation of being an exclusive organization for fighters.
“We’re definitely trying to bring in more non-fighters than fighters,” he said. “We want to emphasize that people can come to us to learn and get a workout in. We’re not trying to be exclusively a kickboxing class by any means.”
Rice stressed the aim of the facility is entirely geared toward public access, though the grand opening is too far away to toss out numbers for membership fees.
Along with the facilities where individuals can access memberships, the central goal is for the complex to be used by the athletic programs at the high school. Rice said he has been in talks with the school and its coaches regarding practice opportunities for wrestling, soccer and lacrosse. Activities Director Mike Hansen said he had talked with Rice about the potential for moving some practices, though nothing has been made official yet.
“We want the high schools or community sports to be able to use it if they want,” Rice said.
There are also plans for a Friday Night Lights program that would enable families to drop their children off at the facility for a few hours of activities provided by the center.
Still emphasizing how far removed they are from hammering out numbers for memberships for the various facilities, Rice stressed the aim of the facility from its inception was providing space for the public, regardless of their fitness level, goals or even financial status.
“If kids can’t afford it, we’ll have some type of scholarship program where they work at the facility in return for being able to use it,” Rice said.
Rice said that in large part, construction of the facility so far has been made possible by local companies offering their services at reduced rates to help keep the project afloat.
He said any businesses interested in being involved are still encouraged to reach out to him about opportunities.
“It’s not some private thing where you have to be special to get in,” Rice said. “It’s for everybody.”