BILLINGS — The Billings Sports Plex has been purchased by a local Billings couple and will be converted into a family entertainment center.
Lava Island is a Colorado-based franchise that boasts family fun through its indoor trampoline park, playground and restaurant business model.
James and Miranda Duncan moved to Billings from Colorado with their two children five and a half years ago.
“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 around March or so I think they’re all 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, Jocelyn, who of course can’t go to the hospital because it’s still a great time for COVID, so we had to have something to do,” explains James Duncan. “In the end, we were blessed to learn about (Lava Island) and it progressed very quickly.”
Nathan is now fully recovered after a bone marrow transplant from his sister Jocelyn and extensive chemotherapy.
But the Duncans fell in love with Lava Island and after seeing the Billings Sports Plex at 5000 Southgate Dr. for sale, decided to bring it to Billings.
“It is wonderful to know that there are blessings in trials and tragedies, and we count this as one of them. We’re excited to have a physical, tangible manifestation of all the things we’ve been working to achieve,” explains Miranda.
The Duncans plan to open Lava Island in the spring of 2023. They will hire about 20-30 employees and say 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 and spend time together.
The Duncans say they are working to make Lava Island Billings a place you can go anytime, no matter the occasion.
And for out-of-town visitors, the Duncans hope they’ll be seen as a stop in Billings.
“Our goal is to keep the price very reasonable so the whole family can come and we don’t have to, we go to Billings and that’s the only thing we do,” Miranda says. “We want it to be part of Billings’ destination for those who live out of town.”
Lava Island also offers party packages, which James says is a major 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 are quite impressive,” says James. “For an 8-year-old to walk into them a room that’s painted like a princess castle and to make it private, it’s your room for an hour to have your own party and invite your friends. This is where the specialty comes in. Where you can treat your child and their friends to something they haven’t seen, especially up here.”
Miranda adds that party packages make planning so much easier and it pays off.
“A child feels like a million dollars, and when a child feels like a million dollars, you can see it in the parent’s eyes,” says Miranda. “When you really make it, you know it and your parents say, I did it, you know? And we want to give that to parents, but we also want to be a part of that. We love seeing kids just feel like they’re living their best lives.”
The Duncan family sent out a press release announcing the purchase and plans on Tuesday. Miranda says they have received several responses expressing sadness at the loss of the sports complex.
But Miranda understands where they’re coming from and says that even though Billings is losing the facility, anyone can come and burn off energy at their new center.
“I feel like it’s a good halfway between that. We don’t want to eliminate sports, we just want the opportunity to start active play,” explains Miranda. “You can still have something to do that’s fun and still active.”
While the Duncan family will manage the center, all operations will be controlled by the Colorado company owned by Celeste Henderson and her family.
Henderson is the owner and founder of Lava Island, and her daughter, Whitney Bulow, is the event manager.
Bulow explains that she is extremely fortunate to have a family like the Duncans running this place.
“They leave a little touch of magic when you finish talking to them, you just feel so happy,” Bulow explains. “They’re just great people.”
“Lava Island is aimed at a slightly younger demographic than many other trampoline parks. We’re toddlers up to 12, but it’s also a place for parents to kick off their shoes and play too,” explains Henderson. “Knowing how important it is for families to have a place to go together, that’s what drives us is the family time component.”
Henderson, Bulow and the Duncan family are keen to emphasize that this is a family-owned and operated business and their focus is to create a unique experience for everyone to enjoy, whatever the occasion.
“It doesn’t matter how big your family is, this place is perfect for everyone. And that’s what we really want to do,” says James. “We are excited about what this will bring to Billings and the surrounding communities.”
For more information on Lava Island in Billings, please click here.