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The Idaho Outdoor Fieldhouse will be game changer for challenged athletes and veterans

Posted at 10:35 AM, Nov 09, 2023

The Idaho Outdoor Fieldhouse will be the new home to theIdaho Challenged Athletes Foundation and a veteran organization called Mission 43.

The main building is 55,000 square feet centered on a seven-acre campus that features indoor and outdoor amenities that will make Boise a premiere destination for people with disabilities.

The pool features an obstacle course that can be raised and lowered into the water

"We are extremely proud, excited, and a little nervous," said Roger Quarles, the Executive Director of the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation. "I’ve been working on this for almost four years with a group of very committed and dedicated folks. Seeing it come together is emotional."

RELATED | Idaho Outdoor Fieldhouse will serve Mission 43 and the Challenged Athletes Foundation

We introduced you to this Idaho Outdoor Fieldhouse more than two years ago, and this week we got the first look inside this one-of-a-kind facility. It features a first-class exercise room, a gym, a pool with an obstacle course, a climbing wall, a full kitchen, and a large room that will serve as a workshop area to help veterans.

The lobby

“The fact that people with disabilities are invited here first, not second class, but to be welcome here and be the best person you can possibly be ... that’s the kind of stuff I’m fired up about," said Willy Stewart. "When I see this equipment of course I’m fired up. What do I think of it? Unreal."

Willie Stewart lost his arm in 1980, but that didn't stop him from finishing Ironman Triathlons, skiing in three Paralympic Games, kayaking the Grand Canyon, completing the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon 25 times, or the Leadville 100 13 times. Willy pointed out several things we didn't notice that will make the Fieldhouse easier to access because of technology and private changing rooms.

Willy Stewart uses some of the equipment in the fitness room

"How you change is different when you have a disability, and the last thing you need if you are newly injured is to be on display," said Stewart. "[Here] You are not, you are in a private changing room with all the equipment you need to change comfortably and independently."

The Idaho Outdoor Fieldhouse is a legacy project of the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation. In Boise, we can thank them for the bike park, the whitewater park, skate parks, and improvements at Bogus Basin, to name a few. The foundation funded, designed, and built the Idaho Outdoor Fieldhouse and they will continue to fund operations in perpetuity.

A changing table in the locker room that goes up and down with the push of a button

“It means a lot to us to make that commitment for the long term for two groups that we really want to support," said Quarles. "We want it to be special, we want it to be a place people enjoy coming to, and we want to have life-changing experiences that really improve the quality of people’s lives."

The Idaho Challenged Athletes Foundation has been changing lives for a long time in Idaho. We have had the privilege of joining them for skiing, sled hockey, mountain biking, and sailing. We've also been there for surprise grants, a boy named Teddy got the first ever GRIT off-road wheelchair designed for kids and we were there to see the reaction when the para-nordic ski coach presented two children with sit skis he built himself.

RELATED | Challenged Athletes Foundation gives out three GRIT wheelchairs to children in Idaho

Teddy in his wheelchair at Sun Valley

"Oh my goodness, we love them," said Briana Elison an Idaho CAF parent. "We have been involved with them for two and a half years and it has changed our life."

RELATED | Challenged Athletes Foundation continues innovating to help children thrive in sports

The J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation has a goal to innovate, bring world-class recreation to Idaho, and also improve the lives of veterans after they get out of the military.

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The Idaho Outdoor Fieldhouse will be the new headquarters for Mission 43, an organization that helps veterans through employment, education, and engagement. They help vets apply for jobs, they have helped me with questions on how to use the GI Bill, and they put on events that bring everybody together.

"Veterans thrive in communities. They thrive in seeing their groups and their families get together to do some amazing things," said Quarles. "They are an unbelievable partner with the Challenged Athletes Foundation because they volunteer for everything and they help each other."

The gymnasium

The J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation hired a strength and conditioning coach who helped train the Georgia Bulldog national champion football team. The campus has temporary housing for coaches and athletes when they come to Boise for clinics and it also has a state-of-the-art hyperbaric chamber for therapy.

The campus utilizes outdoor space in a beautiful setting next to the Boise River and I can't wait to see what it will mean for the future of veterans and challenged athletes in Idaho.

The Fieldhouse is next to the Boise River on the east side of town

"Give us an opportunity, give us access, and give us a weight room and let us go and kick some butt," said Stewart. "I think you are going to see the athletes coming out of Idaho will be the ones that transform the rest of the country because we are going to start them young and they are going to stick with it until they are my age."

The foundation does ask people to be patient as they implement a six-month trial and process to figure out the best way for both organizations to use the Idaho Outdoor Fieldhouse moving forward.