WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) — Winter's chill is sticking around this spring in the landlocked prairie of North Dakota's oil country, but residents of Williston finally will be able to surf in Boomtown, U.S.A.
On Friday, the city opened a highly anticipated recreation center that officials hope will bring families to the area, which has long been a destination for people who want to work, but not settle down.
The 236,000-square-foot building isn't your run-of-the-mill rec center — complete with an indoor waterpark complete with a surf simulator — and is the product of a one-percent sales tax increase approved by city voters in 2011.
"It's the largest park district-owned rec center in the country that I know of," said Darin Krueger, director of Williston Parks and Recreation. Construction took 18 months and was budgeted at $76 million. The sales tax increase also added to the department's operating budget.
The waterpark nods to the source of Williston's economic and population boom, as representations of an oil derrick and the flickering orange flames of gas flares stand on an island between lazy rivers named after local waterways, like Little Muddy Creek and the Yellowstone River.
The center also has a turf field, basketball courts, tennis courts, a 200-meter track, an elevated walking track, a 50-meter pool, a daycare, a kitchen for cooking classes, a senior center, a golf simulator as well as a high-tech baseball pitching simulator.
"The Dodgers bought it a week after we did, so it's pretty cool," Krueger said.
Those behind the recreation center say it's not just for show and fun. It's about bringing families and community to Williston.