The Lewistown Public Schools have, for many years, partnered with the City of Lewistown to utilize and support the Lewistown Civic Center and its many activitiies.
The Civic Center supports many recreational activities within Central Montana. Its many offerings include a gymnasium, weight room, indoor archery and rifle ranges, meeting rooms, locker rooms, indoor golf driving range, occasional dances and a roller skating arena. The Civic Center hosts a variety of recreational leagues and programs throughout the year, including volleyball, basketball, archery and rifle leagues. A number of outdoor programs are also run out of the Civic Center. In addition, roller skates and cross-country skis are available for rent.
The history of the Civic Center starts with its construction in 1936, just prior to World War II. It was built under the Works Progress Administration (WPA) with the understanding that it would serve Lewistown as their new armory. It had a rifle range in the basement and a built-in vault (room) to be a safe storage for arms, ammunition, and other sensitive items belonging to the Lewistown National Guard. Being a civic center, it was not solely for the exclusive use of the National Guard. The large room, upstairs, with a gymnasium floor, stage, office, rest rooms, and two meeting rooms were available to the general public on days other than the drill night of Co. “K”. After the war was over in 1945, the civic center remained the home for the Lewistown guard unit until 1962 when the Spencer H. Mitchell Armory was built near the water tank at the Lewistown airport.
After its start as an armory the Lewistown Civic Center evolved to also become the HOME of Lewistown's many school sports teams. Fergus County High School which later became Fergus High School in the 1970's and the former St. Leo's High School used the Civic Center to host their home basketball games for years until the completion of the Fergus High Fieldhouse in 1986. Prior to that time the Civic Center was the long-term host of Montana High School Association district, divisional and state basketball tournaments. Almost all tournaments were sellouts. District 7C tournaments specifically, were known for their unbelievable tournament atmosphere with students and fans packed into every crook and cranny. Even today the Civic Center still hosts many subvarsity contests for the Lewistown Public Schools, from junior high and freshman volleyball and basketball games to leagues for elementary school kids at every grade level.
The Civic Center was also the sellout host of The Western Invitational Tournament, hosted by the Central Montana Jaycees. The WIT, as it was referred to, was one of the largest amateur basketball tournaments in the western United States, routinely having future NBA stars play on teams supported by local, state and regional sponsors. Perhaps the best known WIT star was Nate Archibald a future NBA Hall of Fame player but others included Dennis Rodman, David Robinson and Glen Gondrezick. In 1986 the WIT moved to the new Fergus High Fieldhouse. After several years of declines caused from changes in NCCA tournaments, poor weather and declining attendance in 2001 the event was cancelled. In summary, the Western Invitational Tournament was a Central Montana highlight for 55 amazing years of top notch amateur basketball. A display of WIT souvenirs can be found in the Civic Center.
For a schedule of events at the Civic Center you can use this link to their page on the City of Lewistown website.
The Civic Center is located at 309 Fifth Ave. South. It is open Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m.; Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 7 p.m. For more information, call (406) 535-3045.