Grant Impact: Paddles and Wheels


During the summer of 2022, Billings Depot teamed up with Scheels to introduce their fresh summer rental initiative, "Paddles and Wheels." Housed in the historic mail building within the Depot premises, this rental hub provides outdoor enthusiasts with gear like paddleboards, bicycles, and more, catering to both travelers and organized tour groups visiting Billings.

Billings, often characterized as a "fly in-fly out" locale, now has an added attraction to encourage visitors to linger and explore the local trails and lakes. Michelle Williams, the Executive Director of Billings Depot, remarked, “This initiative is designed to motivate tourists to extend their stay in Billings and experience the outdoor beauty we offer."

Thanks to the Eastern Montana Initiative grant, Billings Depot secured funding not only to market 'Paddles and Wheels' to potential tourists but also for storefront signage. Since securing these funds, a notable 82% of the rentals have been by non-local visitors. This clientele comprises refinery workers on the move, individuals in town for family visits, temporary workers from diverse sectors, and passersby wanting to make the most of their time in the region.

The community has been extremely supportive of this project, and we receive many messages of "thanks". This is the first equipment rental shop in Downtown Billings renting a variety of summer equipment and safety gear. Not only is it a convenient location for travelers and residents, but it also supports many community goals in the areas of tourism, economic development, workforce development, healthy living, and outdoor recreation. The Billings Depot is a community-owned nonprofit, and our mission is to support the growth and vitality of our community. This project is just another way we prove our commitment to that mission,” said Williams, “We are currently in discussions with Scheels to determine how the store will operate in future years and options for expansion. This could include different equipment or even expand into different seasons based on the outcomes from our 2023 season.”


Paddles and Wheels is open through Labor Day (September 5). Check them out in The Post at the Billings Depot at 2404 Avenue.


Tags: Office of Tourism News