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If you build it: Bannock County looks to new Wellness Complex

Published On: Dec 04 2013 06:27:47 PM CST

For the past two years Portneuf Health Care Foundation CEO Shaun Menchaca researched data surrounding the health of the community.

With a 30-percent obesity rate, Bannock County ranks 30th out of the other 44 surrounding counties when it comes to health levels. The low health outcome ranking lead Menchaca to rally partners from around the community to help build a $10 million Wellness Complex.

"It's a one-of-a-kind, world-class Wellness Complex, that is really not available anywhere else in the country," Menchaca described.

The 80-acre complex will be built upon the Bannock County fairgrounds, complete with 13 full-size soccer fields, about 6.35 miles of loop running trails, an amphitheater, bleachers that can hold 2,000 cheering spectators, a new parking lot that can hold 750 new parking stalls, and new biking trails.

On the other side of the complex, Idaho Fish and Game agreed to help construct a new 6-acre lake that will serve as both a new fish hatchery and a swimming beach. Next to the lake will be new sand volleyball courts.

Secluded on the far side of the complex, the plan is to put in three, full-size basketball courts, and in the upper-region, a community garden.

"That's really what the Wellness Complex is about: improving those types of things. The things that we do that will impact our lives in the future," Menchaca said.

Partnering with the foundation are: Bannock County, the cities of Pocatello and Chubbuck, the Portneuf Medical Center, Idaho Fish and Game, and the Idaho Transportation Department, among others.

Bannock County Commissioner Karl Anderson recalled growing up near the old fairgrounds and said, even with the fairgrounds holding a special place in his heart, the complex will not interrupt any existing fairground activities and will be a positive impact on the community.

"This Wellness Complex is more than your mind can take in," Anderson said.

Project leaders also hope this complex will help further bridge Pocatello and Chubbuck.

Horse trainer Dan Obray has been training horses at the fairgrounds for the past five years. He said over the years, he has seen big safety issues arise with the existing soccer fields placed so close-by the track. He said he hopes the new facility will not pose as a greater risk.

"Those soccer balls come onto the track, the kids come up on the side of the track, and we're trying to train horses," Obray said. "If my horse hits somebody, I'm liable and that could ruin my life, not to mention theirs."

However, project leaders and engineers said they plan on taking safety issues into significant importance and plan to place a dividing wall between the complex and the track.

Obray said he feels assured with the proper safety measures, this complex could be a positive impact on the community.

"It might be a great thing, and I would dearly love it because it could be great for the community," Obray said.

 Menchaca said the project is slated to start this spring and is expected to be completed by the summer of 2015.