BILLINGS – The Billings Sports Plex was purchased by a local Billings couple and is being converted into a family leisure center.
Lava Island is a Colorado-based franchise that offers family fun with its indoor trampoline park, playground, and restaurant business model.
James and Miranda Duncan moved to Billings from Colorado five and a half years ago with their two children.
“One thing we love about Billings is summer. But something we struggle with, especially when we have kids, is the winters,” explains Miranda Duncan. “They’re longer and the days are shorter and I think by March or so everyone’s climbing the walls ready to get back outside.”
In October 2021, the Duncans’ then 9-year-old son, Nathan, was diagnosed with AML leukemia. The family spent much of their time in Denver, Colorado while Nathan received chemotherapy at Children’s Hospital.
“We have our daughter Joslyn who obviously can’t go to the hospital because it’s still premium COVID time so we needed to have something to do,” explains James Duncan. “In the end we were blessed, a little over (Lava Island), and it went very quickly.”
Nathan is now fully recovered following a bone marrow transplant from his sister Joslyn and extensive chemotherapy.
But the Duncans fell in love with Lava Island and after breaking the Billings Sports Plex at 5000 Southgate Dr. For sale, they decided to take it to Billings.
“It’s wonderful to know that trials and tragedy bring blessings, and we absolutely count that among them. We’re thrilled to have a physical, tangible manifestation of everything we’ve worked to achieve,” explains Miranda.
The Duncans plan to open Lava Island in spring 2023. They will hire about 20-30 people and say that those interested can sign up for progress updates on their website.
The main focus of the center is to provide a fun indoor environment for all ages to come together and spend time.
The Duncans say they are working to make Lava Island Billings a place where you can go anytime, no matter the occasion.
And for out-of-towners, the Duncans are hoping they’ll be considered as a stop in Billings.
“Our goal is to keep the price point very reasonable so that the whole family can come and it doesn’t have to be, we go to Billings and that’s the only thing we do,” says Miranda. “We want it to become part of Billings’ goal for those who live out of town.”
Lava Island also offers party packages, which James says are a key highlight of their business model.
“That’s something we don’t have here (in Billings) right now, the private party rooms. These are themed party rooms and they’re pretty impressive,” says James. “For an 8 year old to enter a room painted like a princess castle and to have it private this is your room for an hour to host your own party and invite your friends. This is where the specialty comes into play. Here you can treat your child and their friends to something they haven’t seen, especially up here.”
Miranda adds that the party packages make planning a lot easier and pay off.
“The kid feels like a million dollars, and when the kid feels like a million dollars, you can see it in the parents’ eyes,” says Miranda. “If you really make it, you know it, and the parents say I did it, you know? And we want to give that to the parents, but we also want to be a part of it. We love to see the kids just feel like they’re living their best life.”
The Duncans issued a press release on Tuesday announcing the purchase and plans. Miranda says they have received some replies expressing their sadness at the loss of the sports complex.
But Miranda understands where they’re coming from and says even though Billings loses the facility, anyone can come and burn energy in their new center.
“I feel like this is a good middle ground. We don’t want to eliminate the sport, we just want the opportunity to play actively,” explains Miranda. “You can always do something that’s fun and still active.”
While the Duncans will run the center, all operations will be overseen by the Colorado company owned by Celeste Henderson and her family.
Henderson is the owner and founder of Lava Island, and her daughter, Whitney Bullough, is the events manager.
Bullough states that she is overjoyed to have a family like the Duncans running the site.
“They leave an air of magic, once you’ve talked to them you just feel so happy,” explains Bullough. “They’re just really great people.”
“Lava Island is targeting a slightly younger demographic than many other trampoline parks. We’re toddlers through 12, but it’s also a place for parents to kick off their shoes and play,” explains Henderson. “Knowing how important it is for families to have a place to come together is what drives us, the family time component.”
Henderson, Bullough and the Duncan family would like to emphasize that this is a family run business and their focus is on creating a unique experience that everyone can enjoy, whatever the occasion.
“No matter the size of your family, this place is perfect for everyone. And that’s what we really want to do,” says James. “We’re excited to see what this will bring to Billings and the surrounding communities.”
For more information on Lava Island in Billings, please click here.