Community Pool Rendering

These renderings of Butte's coming waterpark were displayed at a ground-breaking ceremony in May. Commissioners could name the water complex in two weeks.

Out of about 200 suggested names for Butte's $8.7-million waterpark, it could come down to Treasure Cove or Ridge Waters.

An initial naming committee also had 406 Waterpark in the final mix, but the Parks and Recreation Board cut that one Monday and sent the others to the Council of Commissioners for a final choice.

The board indicated its favorite, however, with four members choosing Ridge Waters and one Treasure Cove. The former plays on Butte's East Ridge and headwaters to the Columbia River system while the latter plays on Montana's nickname.

"The only thing with Treasure Cove is that it sounds like a casino," said Bud Walker, a commissioner who also serves on the parks board.

Omitted from contention right off the bat were any people's names, words used with other pools or waterparks in Montana, and any mining terms or those so distinctive to Butte they could turn off potential visitors. The pool is on schedule to open late next spring.

The council, much like the Montana Legislature at the state level, can usually do its own thing if it wants, so it's possible commissioners could reject both recommended names and come up with their own. But that seems unlikely in this case.

The parks board is an advisory panel, but the council usually gives deference to such boards, especially when they can point to an open, public process and serious thought and consideration going into a recommendation.

That was done in this "what's in a name" case, say parks director J.P. Gallagher and board member Cathy Tutty, who both served on a six-member naming panel that would have been bigger if all invitees took part.

It wasn't so much what they were looking for in a name as what they did not want.

First, they did not want personal names or memorials to anyone. They went down that road in recently naming the new American Legion baseball park "3 Legends Stadium" after three men who had dedicated decades to the Legion program.

At the 11th-hour in that process, however, a man claimed his late father was as deserving as the others, and it became a contentious dispute before commissioners and the public, which had largely been left out of the process.

This time, the Parks Division let anyone make suggestions via the county's website. Fifth- and sixth-graders in the county also were asked to weigh in, Gallagher said, and together about 200 names were submitted.

Gallagher said there were many suggestions for naming the waterpark after Robert Holton. The Butte man was killed in Vietnam in 1969, but he remained an MIA until his remains were found, identified, and returned here this year.

No matter who they chose, Gallagher said, somebody would feel slighted.

Tutty also noted that the public, by a big margin, voted for a bond issue to pay for most construction costs for the waterpark.

"Everybody voted for this pool, and everyone is going to benefit from this pool, so to name it after one person just didn't make a whole lot of sense to us," she said.

They didn't want terms used for other Montana waterparks or cities, so names with "splash" and "magic" and other words were eliminated, too.

And they purposefully avoided mining terms or those that play on Butte's distinctive blue-collar, rough-stock reputation. Gallagher said Butte is proud of its character and rightly so, but such terms can be barriers to outsiders.

County officials want the waterpark to draw visitors from Whitehall and Twin Bridges and Sheridan and anywhere else outside of Butte-Silver Bow County.

Every city is proud of its heritage, Tutty said, but having a name directly associated with mining in this case "separates us."

"It makes us the kind of step-brother in the state rather than, 'We've got this great place that we want everyone to come to,'" she said.

With the carousel and $5 million in other enhancements planned for Stodden Park, the goal is to make it all as welcoming as can be. Certain terms can give off a "Butte against the world" message, Tutty said.

"I think while that it is appropriate when we're fielding a championship team, it's not as appropriate when what we're doing is making the hospitality of Butte available to anyone who wants to visit," she said.

Gallagher said he planned to submit the recommendations to commissioners in two weeks.

Council chairman John Morgan said he was pleased to hear that names were solicited from the general public and the naming committee and parks board put a lot of thought into the issue.

"The pool is a big thing for Butte, and it is for everyone," he said.

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Government and politics reporter

Reporter with emphasis on government and politics.

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