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Passionate bike culture re-birthed interest for one of the oldest sports in Butte

BUTTE — What you may see on top of the parking garage on West Park St. in Uptown Butte isn’t just some made-up sport a group of friends decided to do one night. This is Bike Polo and is exactly like the more traditional sport of polo with one exception: Horses are replaced for bikes.

Believe it or not, this isn’t the first time this sport has been played in the Mining City.

“We found evidence in the (Montana Standard newspaper) of them playing back 120 years ago. I think there’s a good gap between that and when we started playing a year ago, but, yeah, it’s an old sport,” said organizer David Hutchins.

Unlike regular polo, this game is pretty easy to pick up.

“It’s not a hard game to learn — if you can ride a bike you play the game. The rules are easy and getting good takes a while. And it’s all about playing with people who are better than you and bringing your game up and having a good time,” said Butte Bike Polo member Pat Ryan.

The nice thing is that there’s only three rules players have to remember when playing this game.

“You can’t touch your feet out or you have to tap out. You have to score with the round end of the mallet. And don’t hurt each other, don’t kill each other is the other rule,” said Hutchins.

It doesn’t take a pro to play this game. The club accepts anybody of any skill level to come and try their luck. The team-first attitude these players have on the court carries into their lives off the court, as well.

“It’s just great. There’s a great team-building going on, there’s great community-building going on, because not only are you working as a team on the court, you’re also talking and sharing your life off the court between games,” said Karlee Jane. “You take that growth and you take that off the court and you add it to the community to other things you’re passionate about.”

And that’s how this sport was rejuvenated: passion and comradery.

“There was just a group of us trying to organize a bike culture in Butte and thinking of different ways — coffee rides, tune-up parties and things like that,” added Hutchins. “And bike polo was something that came up. We made some mallets, put together some bikes and started about a year ago.”

There’s no better time than now to join one of the fastest-growing sports in Butte.

“People shuffle their schedules around to come play because we like it that much, we love it that much, and we like to so much we want  more people to come and do it,” added Jane.

Dom Tibbetts

Dom Tibbetts

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