County commissioners have unanimously approved restaurateur Joe Rice's plan to build an indoor sports facility in South Park.

"It's truly a community project," Rice told commissioners Tuesday. 

The two-story facility will be 3 1/2 miles south of High School Road at the South Park Service Center. The layout features a full-size, 21,341-square-foot soccer field with bathrooms, a lobby and additional gym training space on the first floor. Ideas are still being floated for the second floor, such as the possibility of a 200-meter, four-lane track, but the upper tier will contain sport-specific training areas.

Rice has had the idea since he moved to Jackson nearly 30 years ago. Lack of field space is a constant issue for the valley’s sports teams and clubs, and Rice is eager to foot the bill for the multimillion-dollar facility.

Jackson Hole High School activities director Mike Hansen has been talking with Rice about moving the Broncs wrestling practices to the new facility because of a shortage of space at the high school.

"Allowing this facility to go forward will help alleviate a lot of pressure we have on our facilities," Hansen told commissioners.

And the indoor soccer field will provide one more practice and game space for the ever-growing Jackson Hole Lacrosse Club and Jackson Hole Youth Soccer organizations.

There is a requirement that the facility be available for public reservation or open public use at least half the hours it is open. Rice wants it to be a building “for the kids” and plans to hold “Friday Night Lights,” where parents can drop their children off Friday nights and let them recreate however they want during an allotted time slot.

Rice hopes to break ground during late spring or early summer 2019 and expects the building to be built quickly, with a possible opening date as early as winter 2019.

The project is not so much a business venture for Rice as it is a way of giving back to a community that he said has given so much to him. He noted the facility will help fill a broad need in the community even though the county doesn't have the resources to build the facility itself.

“It’s something the community really needs,” he said. “Jackson’s been great to [me and my family]. We want to do something for the community. It sounds corny, but it’s really true.”

Contact Allie Gross at 732-7063, or @JHNGcounty.

Allie Gross covers Teton County government. Originally from the Chicago area, she joined the News&Guide in 2017 after studying politics and Spanish at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

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